Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association | JSS
Seasons are important in Japanese culture and traditions and can be experienced through Japanese art, fashion, food, drink, and of course, sake. Seasonal sake is sake that is released in or available only in certain months during the year such as haruzake in spring, natsuzake in summer, hiyaoroshi sake in autumn, and shiboritate in winter. Each has a unique composition, taste, and story that matches the season and the food.
This guide will be a brief introduction to ‘Hiyaoroshi’, a sake that is released in the autumn season, usually from September. Let’s learn more about what hiyaoroshi is, what makes the autumn season important, and what it tastes like when paired with food.
‘Hiyaoroshi’ is a term that refers to a process in which shiboritate sake from winter is pasteurized once in early spring, stored, and aged over the summer. Finally, bottled and shipped in autumn without being pasteurized a second time.
Hiyaoroshi sake dates back to the Edo period and its name portrays how it was made. The word “hiyaoroshi” (冷やおろし), in Japanese, is made up of a combination of meanings. “Hiya” (冷や) means cold or chilled, and “oroshi” (おろし) means lower or sell. This expression describes sake that has been stored in tubs after pasteurization in the spring, then when cooled down to a temperature that matches the outside climate (hiya), it is drawn down from the tubs into casks (oroshi) for selling. This method of making hiyaoroshi sake continues today, with subtle differences such as the introduction of tanks and bottles.
Sake is pasteurized and put through heat treatment to kill off any remaining enzymes and microorganisms. This prevents any negative impact from bacteria and preserves the aroma and taste of the sake. Most commonly, sake undergoes this process two times. Once before storage and a final time before selling.
In the case of hiyaoroshi sake, it is pasteurized once in spring, aged until autumn, and then prepared for sale without this second pasteurization. The main benefit of foregoing the second pasteurization is that it preserves the balance of delicate aroma and taste that would usually have been lost or compromised from the second round of heating.
Sake is the one and only alcoholic drink in which the change between the four seasons can be fully experienced and enjoyed. With the brewing process starting in the cold winter, and maturing through a hot summer, finally gaining a distinctive depth in umami towards autumn, hiyaoroshi is a great example of how umami evolves with aging.
In addition, hiyaoroshi is said to change even within the autumn season itself by aging within the bottle. Sake opened during the lingering hot days of September will have a refreshing taste. While, just after a period of two months in October and November, it transforms into a gentle and mellow aroma with a smooth and rich texture. By drinking a hiyaoroshi over the course of a few months, you can experience a drastic change in flavor, just from the same bottle.
Seasonality is extremely important in Japanese cuisine and of course when pairing with hiyaoroshi. In Japan, autumn is commonly referred to as the ‘season of appetite’ with an abundance of produce and seasonally popular flavors. Look around at what is harvested in autumn and you will have a really good idea of what this sake goes well with. As with the old saying “what grows together goes together”, hiyaorishi really enhances these seasonal products.
Some common suggestions include pairing hiyaoroshi with dishes featuring mushrooms, chestnuts, or pumpkin and you will discover how harmonious they taste. Add a little extra miso or soy sauce to your cooking and discover how the hiyaoroshi brings out the umami. Japanese dishes including nabe, a Japanese hot pot, grilled mackerel, stews, and oden also match superbly with it, or if you are looking for a western-inspired match, try hard cheese, game, or cured and roasted meats.
Hiyaoroshi sake is a seasonal product that sake fans look forward to every year. It is embedded into the history and tradition of sake brewing, while also being intertwined with the Japanese food culture.
The most intriguing aspects of hiyaoroshi sake have to be how it represents and expresses how diverse sake is through the aging process. It is one of the many reasons why hiyaoroshi sake is a seasonal highlight for many sake connoisseurs.