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Sake Coaster Template For Sake Tasting

Coaster template for sake tastings with instructions on how to taste sake. Sake tasting is generally conducted the same way you would taste wines. After evaluating the color, the aroma is analyzed followed by the taste or palate.

Sake tasting is generally conducted the same way you would taste wines. After evaluating the color, the aroma is analyzed followed by the taste or palate. These three pillars should give a comprehensive overview of the sake characteristics and its profile.

  1. Evaluation of the color and appearance 
  2. Evaluation of the aroma profile
  3. Evaluation of the taste profile or palate

How to taste sake

Step 1: Color and appearance

First, you evaluate the color or outward appearance of the sake. Does this sake have a transparent color or yellowish tone? Usually, filtered sake (“Roka”) is completely transparent, whereas for unfiltered sake (“Muroka”) you might spot some light greenish color. Aged or matured sake can be yellow or even brown. As a thumb rule: the darker the color of the sake is, the more mature the sake is.

In addition to the color, there might be some other points like bubbles or lees to observe. Are there any gas bubbles inherent or can you spot any sake lees left over in the bottle making the sake hazy? If you can observe light bubbles forming at the glass border, then you might be drinking an unpasteurized sake (“Namazake”).

Step 2: Aroma

Analyzing the aroma is the second step. This might be one of the hardest steps, but with some practice and comparing the aroma to the actual reminiscent aroma you will be more and more able to detect some aroma notes in the sake. You just need to know what you should be looking for.

When you get closer to the glass and you can directly detect a few different aroma notes, the aroma intensity of this sake is particularly high. In the case of some delicate sake in which the aroma is less intense, it might be even hard to pick out one scent. As a thumb rule: the more aroma you can detect when hovering over the glass rim, the more aromatic the sake is.

A Ginjo-style sake has fruity and floral aroma notes like apple, banana, or melon. When tasting an unpasteurized sake (“Nama”) one can usually detect some lactic notes reminiscent of milk or yogurt and some herbal notes reminiscent of fresh herbs, grass, or spices. Less polished Junmai sake usually has a distinct cereal aroma that reminds of steamed rice or other toasted grains. Aged sake tends to have aroma notes of honey, caramel, roasted nuts, or dried fruits.

Step 3: Taste

Lastly, take some small sips and try to evaluate the flavor profile on the palate. It usually includes the amount of sweetness (whether it is a dry or sweet sake), level of acidity (whether you feel acidity), body (whether it is a full-bodied or light-bodied sake), umami content, aftertaste (whether it is a long or short finish) and flavor profile (what flavors you can taste on the palate).

Compared to wine, most sake is very delicate and has only soft flavor profiles. Often the aroma profile continues on the palate with some nuances.

Tips for sake tasting

  1. Conducting the sake tasting in a constant inside environment with enough light
  2. Using standardized wine glasses like the ISO tasting glasses
  3. Serving sake at a normalized temperature, ideally room temperature
  4. Using sake tasting coasters for structured tasting

A bright room with enough light should be chosen when tasting sake. The light is necessary to correctly determine the appearance of the sake. Holding a transparent glass again with a white background like a DIN4 paper can help to distinguish even the slightest color nuance.

In order to pick up the aroma, it is recommended to use standard wine glasses like the ISO tasting glasses. The tulip shape helps to concentrate the scents in the glass, thus making it easier to detect the inherent aromas.

Serving and tasting the sake at a constant temperature is important. As sake tends to change its characteristics based on its serving temperature, the temperature should be normalized when comparing multiple sake bottles. Room temperature is recommended.

Using a tasting sheet or coaster with numbered glasses can help to make the sake tasting more structured. The attached template can be printed out and utilized in tasting sessions as a coaster.

Sake tasting coaster for three glasses

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