Sakemaru: A Delicious Subscription For Seasonal, Rare Sakes

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Sakemau is a monthly subcription service for seasonal, rare sakes. Pictured here are some of the special sakes they offer. From left to right, Taxi Driver Junmai Nama Genshu No.4, Senkin Junmaidaiginjo Jikagumi Arabasiri and Tsukinowa Junmai Nama Genshu. (Photo Credit: Sakemaru).

Sakemau is a monthly subcription service for seasonal, rare sakes. Pictured here are some of the special sakes they offer. From left to right, Taxi Driver Junmai Nama Genshu No.4, Senkin Junmaidaiginjo Jikagumi Arabasiri and Tsukinowa Junmai Nama Genshu. (Photo Credit: Sakemaru).

Sake (a.k.a. nihon-shu) remains a mystifying force in Singapore. While we have warmed up to the rangy palettes of wine and whiskey, the sake experience is still very much limited to izakayas, omakase plaes and the such. An equally versatile spirit (traditional and new-age; sweet and dry; aged and fresh), it is hard to fathom why more establishments are not picking  them up. Hoping to shine more light on this varied spirit is Sakemaru. A godsend monthly subscription service delivering bottles of fresh or matured sakes straight from the breweries in Japan to your doorstep, along with translated information of the brewery and tasting notes. What truly sets them apart is the focus on seasonal, rare sakes you can hardly even find in the markets of Japan.

From Spring to Summer, namazake (生酒).

Shukuu Izakaya is decorated with bottles and bottles of sake.

Shukuu Izakaya is decorated with bottles and bottles of sake.

Essentially, namazake is unpasteurized sake. Sake is usually pasteurised twice to kill off enzymes, stabilising it. This subsequently accelerates the ageing of the sake as well. Which is why namazake is known carry a young and brash profile in comparison. Fittingly, it also appears more commonly in Spring, representing the youth of nature. Though, it is simply because the season coincides with the end of the traditional sake brewing period.

Since it is unpasteurized, it must be refrigerated (up to ~6 months, unopened) and consumed soon after opening (~2 weeks). The active enzymes within in imparts a fresh, fruity flavour that many yearn for, but it is also the same enzymes that could make or break the spirit if stored incorrectly. The flavour easily changes over a short time, even within an hour of opening the bottle.

So, what’s the appeal? That impactful flavour profile aside, it is extremely drinkable and pairs well with various cuisines. Many adore the gentle chill of a namazake with the cheerful spring wind, or during the harsh heat of summer. It just works.

From Autumn, sake nouveau a.k.a. shinshu.

Shukuu Izakaya presents the Kaze no Mori Akitsuho Junmai Shiborihana Sake (S$128/bottle).

Shukuu Izakaya presents the Kaze no Mori Akitsuho Junmai Shiborihana Sake (S$128/bottle).

Usually available at the beginning of the crucial sales month of December is shinshu. Many know it as sake nouveau when out shopping for them in the market. It can come as namazake or has been treated, but what we want is the former. Why? Because it tends to be sparkling due to the active yeast still residing within the bottling. It can even open up to a gentle version of a champagne pop.

It can come in two styles, genshu or muroka. Genshu refers to shinshu in its pure, undiluted form, coming up to 17 to 18% in alcohol. Some water may be added to bring out the more subtle profiles of the sake. The latter, muroka, refers to sake that was not charcoal-filtered. This step smoothens our the rougher notes of the sake. Without it, it brings a different dimension to the sake.

You may read more about shinshu here.

I had one such style of sake during an intimate session with Shukuu Izakaya, where I go into detail into some of the sakes and its process. You can read more about it here.

 

So, how does it work?

Sakemaru offers three styles of delivery, ranging from S$55/month, S$110/month to the premium S$145/month (all postage included). The sake offered will all have been curated by Tadashi Okushima, CEO of Japan International Trading Co., LTD and four-time certified sake/sochu sommelier.

The basic (S$55/month) will include a 720mL bottle of seasonal namazake every month. It will also store a 720mL bottle of rare sake in their special snow dorm (more details to come) to mature for one year on the second month of your subscription.

The next tier, special (S$110/month) will include two bottles of 720 mL seasonal namazake every month. There will also be two bottles of 720mL rare sake left to mature for one year in their snow dorm on the second month of your subscription.

The last premium (S$145/month) tier will include a 720mL bottle of seasonal namazake and a seasonal junmai daiginjo (highest clarity for sake). Likewise, it will store two bottles of rare sake in their snow dorm for one year on the second month of your subscription.

They also have a discounted price for six-month subscriptions; S$314 (originally S$330) for basic, S$627 (originally S$660) for special and S$827 (originally S$870) for premium.

Sakemaru's Snow Cellar Dorm maturation programme. (Photo Credit: Sakemaru)

Sakemaru’s Snow Cellar Dorm maturation programme. (Photo Credit: Sakemaru)

What’s really special are the bottles waiting for you in their snow cellar dorm. Located in Osawa, Niigata, Japan, this is a traditional method of keeping sake in the optimal conditions; low temperatures (0 to 5C), high humidity (70%), no vibration and no light. Overall, it is said to impart a richer taste without adversely effects on the sake.

Find out more about their subscription plans here.

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