- “Clean”, “beautiful”.
An expression used to describe the sensation on the palate after taking sake into the mouth. It is used when appropriate umami levels are combined with a certain smoothness. Although it is too subjective an expression to be able to make a categorical statement, it tends to be used of sake with no off-odours or off-flavours, and low levels of acids and amino acids.
It is used in a positive sense, and the expression tanrei (淡麗), with characters signifying light (or pale) and clear, is a close synonym. (Kirei is a commonly-used word meaning clean/ tidy/beautiful in general-use Japanese, but tanrei is mainly used only in the context of alcoholic drinks, particularly sake.) In the opposite sense of a sake which gives a rough feeling on the palate, the term arai (荒い, “rough”) is used. Examples with off-odours or off-flavours, excessive levels of acidity and so on may also be criticized as kitanai (きたない, dirty), the opposite of kirei.
When a sake is lacking in suitable seishu flavour, it may be described as usui (thin) or sabishii (さびしい, literally meaning “lonely”).