First Sampling from Storage Tank
Though more and more sake is being stored in bottles these days, most sake is still stored in tanks after produced in winter, and then bottled for shipment when it perfectly creates a well-balanced flavor and a rich taste. Several times a year, those engaged in brewing including brewers, tojis (brew masters), workers take a small sample from the sake stored in tanks to assess the aroma and taste. As they make a sampling of all tanks and carefully analyze the flavor, transparency, and existence of hi-ochi (growth of one of lactic acid bacterium called hi-ochi lactobacillus), the sampling requires a lot of work so that it takes a whole day for large breweries. The word nomikiri comes from the process of cutting (kiri) the sealed aperture (nomi) at the bottom of a storage tank to open the tank. The first nomikiri of the previous season’s brew is called hatsu-nomikiri.
Generally, hatsunomikiri is held from late May to August. They not just check the quality of sake but also determine the time of shipment, etc., so it is an especially important event. Also, sake for hatsu-nomikiri is not yet matured but fresh from the tank offering a special charm. So recently, some breweries have come to ship such sake with a desire to introduce the taste only available in the limited period or to have a tasting event for the general public. Just like Beaujolais nouveau, this might be one of the highlights of the season in the future.