Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association | JSS

Basic What Does Sake Taste Like?

Sake may still be new to many people outside of Japan. Therefore, learning more about its traditions, history, and brewing process is a great way to understand sake better. So what does sake taste like? Compared to other alcoholic drinks, sake may seem subtle in its character at first glance. However, its appearance, aroma, texture, and flavor are quite unique and its diversity might surprise you.

the Sake Tasting Cup

A standard sake tasting cup is made of white porcelain with 2 navy rings printed on the inside. Once poured into the cup, the white porcelain makes it easier to evaluate the sake's color, as the navy rings create contrast helping when assessing turbidity.

Sake Appearance


The color of sake varies based on its filtration method and degree of aging.


The sake mash where fermentation and saccharification occur in sake production is white and porridgy. As a result, the fineness of the mesh used during pressing defines the sake's turbidity.

Sake Aroma

Different brewing and aging methods bring out a wide spectrum of aromas from the sake. This aroma encompasses anything from fruity and floral to nutty and roasted. For example, ginjo, a type of refined sake, usually has a fruity aroma. On the other hand, aged sake takes on a spicy and roasted fragrance.

Aroma Characteristics of Sake Types

Sake Texture

Most sake has a smooth texture that is slightly thicker than water. However and as to be expected, depending on the style of sake mouthfeel can significantly vary.

Sake Flavor

The aroma and taste components of sake comprise its main flavor. This consists of mainly sweetness, acidity, and umami notes. The balance of these components determines the impression of the taste.

Taste Components


Sake contains a sugar content similar to semi-sweet wine. Unlike wine, which contains mostly fructose, the sugar in sake is mainly glucose.


The acidity of sake is about 1/5th of wine. The main acidic component of sake is succinic acid, followed by lactic acid and malic acid.

Amino acids

Sake is rich in amino acids, containing over five times more than wine and beer. Amino acids and peptides produce the umami flavor found in sake.

Sake Taste Composition and Impression

Sake Temperature

What is unique about sake is that its taste changes depending on what temperature it is served at. Heat affects the perception of sweetness and umami, but not acidity. Here are the characteristics of the same sake at two different serving temperatures, compared to the sake at 25°C as a control.

Sake Aging

The characteristics of sake change over time, especially when exposed to light and high temperature. For example, sugar and amino acid components go through a Maillard reaction. This reaction results in amber color and complex flavor. In addition, the fruity aroma disappears while a toast-like fragrance comes out. The texture also becomes smoother with a longer finish. Recently, aged sake has become popular, and some professionals age sake under particular conditions similar to aging wine.

Basic Guide


By entering this website, you certify that you are of
legal drinking age in the country you reside in.