The trouble with hot sake
We have strong feelings here at SuperSake about the temperature of our sake. We are unashamedly in favour of cold sake and shy away from hot sake ( Kan sake ). And there's a simple reason for it. You see, for the normal consumer, unless you can see the bottle and know a bit about good and bad sake makes, most hot sakes are cheap and not very nice. Heating is used to mask the (bad) flavour.
Now we would be the first to say that we enjoy some hot sake, especially when it's cold. In fact our latest area of experimentation is to heat 'nama' (unpasteurised) sake. With some junmai with particular rice varietals (like the 'Akebono' rice from Okayama from Gozenshu) the savoury flavour is enhanced by heating and the nama characteristics add an extra layer of complexity. And because we raise the temperature to 45°C we haven't yet pasteurised the sake as that needs a temperature of 62°C.
Our wholesale arm of the business sells to many restaurants but we often encounter the situation where we can't sell to the restaurant because they are using a very very cheap sake. We say to them '"we don't have anything that bad" but they say, "it's OK, we are going to heat it". And there lies the crux of the problem.
As long as there are people who go to a restaurant and invariably say "a pot of house sake, hot, please" they will almost without exception get a bad taste of sake. That is why people don't like sake. They are only drinking bad ones.
Now you may ask, "why cold then? Can't you get a bad pot of cold sake?" Well actually you probably never will get a really bad one because it can't be masked. (By heat). The cheap sake is undrinkable when cold. So no one will ever offer it.
That's why, by law of averages, if you buy a sake in Australia that is cold you will *probably* get a superior form of sake.
When you order a cold sake you open yourself up the the wonderful world of junmai ginjo, junmai daiginjo, namazake, junmai muroka namagenshu, koshu, nigori, all of which are rarely served warm and which showcase the exceptional taste of nihonshu (the more proper word for sake).
We won't get into the world of polishing, seimaibuai (say-my-boo-eye), and the refined tastes ushered into the sake taste palette since the early 1900's yet. That's for a later time.