(Initial) sampling from storage tank

The process of taking a small sample from the previously sealed aperture (nomi) of a storage tank to check that storage is problem-free, and to assess the aroma and taste of the sake, is called nomi-kiri (literally, cutting (breaking) the nomi). Given the contemporary highly improved level of expertise in pasteurization and storage technique, examples of hi-ochi spoilage during storage are rarely, if ever, seen. However, the custom of breaking the seals on the tanks for the first time as the summer temperature rises, and the risk from hi-ochi increases in June and July, is still widely observed.

This first breaking of the seals is distinguished as hatsu nomi-kiri (初呑切, with the character for “first” prefixed). From then on, many breweries make a sampling once a month until the temperatures drop in October. In cases such as when there are doubts about quality, or when test blending needs to be carried out with sake from a storage tank, nomi-kiri may be carried out at irregular intervals, in which case it is called ai-nomikiri (written with the character for “between”).