The great thing about drinking sake is that it can be enjoyed in numerous vessels. From small ochoko cups to wine glasses, every vessel provides a new experience to enjoy, reflecting the wonderful diversity of nihonshu.
I’ve officially taken my sake geekery to the next level by investing in specially designed glassware that’s perfect for drinking Junmai (pure rice) sake. Crafted by the Riedel Glass Company, the Junmai sake glass really does make a difference when imbibing Japan’s national drink.
Fine tuned craftsmanship
The story behind the Riedel junmai glass is one of meticulous research. In 1999, the company created a daiginjo glass, which catered towards nihonshu with a high rice polishing rate and floral flavours. The daiginjo glass was a success and Riedel turned its attention to Junmai but was faced with a set of challenges.
While the daiginjo grade can be categorised by its fruity and light texture, the Junmai category isn’t as fixed. Flavours can range from bright and dry, to savoury and sweet. Riedel spent years working with sake breweries all over Japan to develop the right shape and look for the junmai glass.
The result was a glass with a wide, bowl-like appearance and elegant stem. While it might draw comparisons with a cocktail glass, the vessel is expertly crafted to disperse the complex flavours of junmai sake evenly around the mouth.
According to 4th generation CEO, Satoshi Kimijima of sake distributor Yokohama Kimijimaya, the glass also helps from an aroma perspective. “A fair number of people tend to have a bit of an aversion to the aromas commonly produced by sake where the rice has undergone only a minimal polishing. This is particularly true of people that are not very familiar with sake.”
With the wide shape of the glass, the umami scent of junmai is given room to breathe and unfurl.
I was keen to see how the junmai glass compared with other drinking vessels. Armed with a bottle of junmai boidaimo Gozenshu 9, I sampled the sake in a regular tumbler glass and noted a punchy flavours at the front of the mouth. It felt like getting all the savoury hints of the Gozenshu 9 at once.
Next, I poured it into the junmai glass and there was an immediate difference. The glass provided wide contact on the tongue, guiding the sake across specific areas. The flavours came slowly, building on top of each other. First oat, then toasted bread, then mango. A relaxing experience. Something that helped me to appreciate the complexity of the sake even more.
For sake aficionados, I would recommend purchasing the Riedel junmai glass. It’s a versatile vessel and reflects the exquisite craftsmanship of Riedel.