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Does Sake Go Bad?

| Alice Hama

What is the best temperature to store sake?

The textbook says to store them in a cool place where there is no exposure to direct sunlight. But does it really make a difference?

And does unopened sake go bad? Does sake go bad after opening? We did an experiment, placing the sake under three different environmental conditions.

  1. Sake stored in a regular fridge for one month
  2. Sake left at room temperature for one month
  3. Sake placed at an outside patio exposed to direct sunlight for one month
Sake comparison of preservation conditions

We used the same sake (the same brand, classification, and bottled date) shipped from Japan in the same pallet.

1: Stored in the fridge

Sake stored in the fridge

Color

Sake color change comparison
From the left 1, 2, 3

The color looks clean. It has a very slight hue but it’s like water, mostly transparent.

Aroma & flavor

It is crisp and clean and has a great smooth finish. It has the aroma of summer cucumber, nectarine, and peach. On the palate, the flavors align with the aroma. I could taste fresh cut cucumber, peach, and melon, with a touch of exotic spice like white anise.

I re-tasted this sake at room temperature later, just to make sure I taste sake with the same serving temperature as others, but it tasted almost the same, maybe with more ripe fruits nuances.

I really liked this sake. It has the style reminiscent of Italian Pinot Grigio and will be a great pairing sake with carpaccio and caprese salad.

2: Room temperature

Sake stored at cool spot

I left the bottle in a cool place in the house without any sunlight. However, it is summer time in Los Angeles, so as you can imagine, I turn the AC on/off all the time.Therefore, I must admit that there were temperature fluctuations in the room which could have affected the sake.

Color

The color of the sake had a touch of pale yellow compared with 1.

Aroma & flavor

Overall, it tasted similar to sample 1. The aroma has more white peach and steamed rice, and it offered fruitier flavors such as Asian pear and cantaloupe with a hint of herb like fennel.

I found nothing faulty about this sake. It is still a great sake.

3: Outside with sunlight exposure

Sake stored at hot spot

Color

It has a noticeable straw tint to the liquid.

Aroma & flavor

On the nose, I could easily smell some acidic, vinegary notes. There was an aroma of ripe grapefruits and cantaloupe, but I could pick up a sherry-like profile. It tasted better than its aroma, but the pronounced flavor of hop and oatmeal did not feel right, and the bitter aftertaste was unpleasant.

To be honest, I did not like this sake. I was very surprised to find this sake very distinct from 1 or 2.

My conclusion

Compared with wines, sake has a relatively stable shelf life due to its unique production process where it goes through pasteurization twice. It can last long if stored with care.

However, through this experiment, I learned that the damages that can be caused by temperature fluctuations and sunlight exposure are no joke. It did go bad. How you store your sake does affect the aroma and flavor by a great measure.

In order to avoid any risk of environmental influences, and to enjoy your sake with its full potential, I recommend storing sake in the fridge. If you have a temperature-stable wine cellar, that will work as well.

Other tips

Please also note that delicate types such as nama/unpasteurized, ginjo and daiginjo will require immediate refrigeration.

In addition, regardless of the type of sake, I recommend putting it in the fridge after opening. The timeline for consumption depends on the type of sake, however, stored in the fridge, it can generally last longer than white wine and is safe to consume about a month after opening.

Fore more information on tips for storing sake, check out our quick guide: Sake Guide Lesson 4: How to store sake

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