Sake Types

Sake is about 15% alcohol and it’s typically enjoyed during meals.

There are several types of sake, divided into 2 big categories: junmai and non-junmai. Junmai sake is made with rice, yeast, koji mold (the spore responsible for the saccharification), and water. Non-junmai is made by adding distilled alcohol to the mix. 

 

Another way to look at sake is by considering the milling of the rice. Milling, or polishing, the rice is essential to sake. Depending on the milling ratio sake is divided as it follows:

JUNMAI

 

Junmai Daiginjo 純米大吟醸 = 50% or less milling ratio

Junmai Ginjo 純米吟醸 = 60% or less milling ratio

Junmai 純米 = unknown milling ratio

NON-JUNMAI

Daiginjo 大吟醸 = 50% or less milling ratio

Ginjo 吟醸 = 60% or less milling ratio

Honjozo 本醸造 = 70% or less milling ratio

Futsu-shu 普通酒 = unknown milling ratio

The percentage refers to how much of the rice grain is left after being polished

When choosing sake remember that:

  • The more the rice is milled the lighter and smoother the sake will be.

  • Adding alcohol to sake doesn't raise the alcohol percentage (sake is usually diluted with water) but will help rounding up its flavour. Junmai types of sake tends to have a better umami whilst non-junmai sake have a rounder and elegant flavour.

Other types of sake

Tokubetsu Junmai 特別純米 and Tokubetsu Honjozo 特別本醸造 = Tokubetsu in Japanese means special. There are several reasons why a sake can be special. Usually it has to do with the milling ratio or the type of rice used. 

Kimoto = one of the oldest brewing methods. Made with a specific technique that give it a deeper and richer flavour.

Yamahai = another older brewing method. Less labour-intense than kimoto, gives sake a similar deep and rich flavour.

 

Namazake = unpasteurized sake. Namazake tends to be lively & brash.

Nigori = cloudy sake. There are several kinds of nigori depending on how cloudy they are.  Nigori sake is obtained by pressing the mash through a coarse-mesh filter.

Koshu or Choki Jukusei-shu = aged sake. It tends to have an amber color and a deeper flavour. 

Sparkling sake = it often has a lower alcohol content. 

Taruzake = aged or made in wood barrel (quite rare)

Genshu = undiluted sake. Usually stronger than regular sake, it can be up to 20% alcohol content.