A very common question for both sake beginners and enthusiasts is ‘how long does sake last?’.
In fact, it’s so common that it gets asked about in breweries all the time.
The truth is: sake has no standard expiration date. But we know you won’t be satisfied with this answer. So, allow us to bring a light to this issue!
1. Proper storage is a MUST
First of all, when you consider the shelf-life of sake and how to prolong it, you will need to know how to store it properly.
Sake is a very delicate beverage, and any external changes can hasten chemical reactions between its ingredients. As a result, sake often develops an unfavorable smell. You will need to minimize this effect through appropriate storage.
When you store sake, consider three things: light, temperature, and air. We’ll get to the details further along.
2. How long does sake last?
There is no consensus as to expiration date. However, some sake breweries suggest the following:
Consume Nama (raw, unpasteurized) sake within 6-8 months, Ginjo and Junmai sake within 10-12 months, and Honjozo and regular sake in 12 months.
Some brands with more delicate products, such as, Dassai recommend drinking their sake within 1-2 months and their Nama sake within 1 week.
The quality and taste of sake can no longer be controlled after shipping or selling, so try to consume it as soon as possible to enjoy it at its best.
Once you’ve opened the bottle, it is better to consume Nama sake within days, and other types of sake within a week’s time. The air in the bottle degrades the quality quickly.
Estimating the ‘Expiration Date’
Sake labels indicate the date of bottling of each product. Use this as the starting date to estimate the ‘expiration date’. Some breweries intentionally ship sake months after bottling. This is to create a milder sake flavor.
3. Benefits of Storing Sake (for the Sake Fan)
Although storing sake for long periods of time can cause it to go bad, some intentionally do so for the following reasons:
a. Sake develops a milder flavor
- Newly brewed sake contains alcohol molecules packed in big clusters. This creates a strong and rich taste.
- As time passes, these alcohol clusters untwine. The taste of sake bcomes milder, thin in the middle, and round on the edges.
- Try this technique as you become more familiar with sake.
b. Sake is ‘Aged’
- ‘Aged’ sake can be as old as a few years to more than 30 years. Only patient and careful storage will allow it to age well.
- Its taste will significantly differ from the original one, and its flavor, much stronger. This kind of sake tends to be polarizing— some will like it a lot and some will not.
4. The best way to store Sake
Storing sake is actually easy– ‘Keep it packed or wrapped, and stored in the refrigerator’.
Light, especially UV light, negatively affects the quality of sake. If you expose it to direct sunlight, it develops discoloration and unfavorable odors within hours!
High temperature is another enemy since it accelerates the reactions between sake ingredients. Some can be stored to, at most, 68 °F (20°C), but you won’t go wrong keeping it in the refrigerator.
If your sake did not come packed or in a box, wrap it in newspaper. Here’s an easy way to wrap your sake bottle:
If you’ve already opened the bottle, oxidation is the prime adversary. Minimizing the amount of air in the bottle is key.
You may opt to transfer the sake into a smaller bottle. Make sure that enough sake can fill the bottle close to the brim to minimize the amount of air inside. A properly cleaned plastic bottle can be used.
If you have a wine saver vacuum, this will also help remove air from original sake bottle.
In general, sake can keep for a year while Nama sake can keep for up to 6 months. But do check the recommendation of the brewery, since some of them suggest consumption within a month (regular sake) or a week (Nama sake).
Drink your sake as soon as possible to enjoy it at its best!