Raw Sake Offers Greater Depth Of Flavor

Hatsushibori, or unpasteurized sake, offers more depth of flavor than other sakes

Fans of unpasteurized milk, cheese and soy sauce have convincingly extolled the virtues of those foods' depth of flavor. Now the latest thing to keep away from high heat is sake.

In Japan, nama-zake (unpasteurized sake) retains a perky brightness, a full body and deeper fruity aromas than its pasteurized counterparts.

There are three seasons for nama-zake production: spring, summer and fall. The first sakes to follow the autumn rice harvest are categorized as hatsushibori. They appeared Stateside last month, and now–as they reach their zenith–is the ideal time to try them.

But what nama-zake retains in flavor, it sacrifices in stability: The sake must be refrigerated, so this round of hatsushibori will soon be gone. Luckily, some sake makers purposely brew their hatsushibori later, creating a second spring season, which will arrive in the U.S. beginning in April.

Try these bottles by way of introduction; you'll likely find them at your favorite sushi bars or wine shops with strong sake selections:

Harushika "Shiboribana" Junmai Ginjo Namazake ($40 for 720 ml) Scents of spring, citrus and strawberry are particularly bright and smooth in this crystal-clear sake.

Shutendouji "Oh-Oni" Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu ($34 for 720 ml) Higher in alcohol than other namas, this full-bodied sake is less pronounced on the nose, but makes up for it with an enveloping mouthfeel.

Ichinokura "Name Genshua" Nigori ($40 for 720 ml) This cloudy, unfiltered sake bursts with citrus flavors, at turns creamy and tart (click to buy online).

Kamikokoro "Toukagen" Shiboritate Tokubetsu Junmai Nama Genshu ($26 for 720 ml) The addition of peach yeast during the brewing process adds subtle fruity notes to this full-flavored sake (click to buy online).