Have you been enjoying Japanese sake from home during the stay-at-home days? Maybe you’ve noticed that each bottle is labeled with words in a big font like Junmai Daiginjo and seimaibuai (rice polishing ratio). The main points that determine the type of sake are the seimaibuai and other additives like alcohol. Not many sake lovers may be aware of that, so we’ll walk you through the main points!
Types of Japanese Sake
Japanese sake is pressed and filtered rice, also often referred to as seishu. Certain sake which uses specific ingredients and seimaibuai are considered shiteimeisho sake or classified sake. Let’s look at the three main types: Junmaishu, Ginjoshu, and Honjozoshu.
The main ingredients for Junmaishu are just rice, koji, and water. The only other thing that may be added in sake is distilled alcohol, which is what makes Junmaishu, Ginjoshu, and Honjozoshu different. Junmaishu only uses rice so alcohol’s distinct scent is not present so the rice’s complex aroma, sweetness, and richness can be enjoyed. Because the umami of rice is densely packed in this sake, it goes well with any meal.
Ginjoshu has the same main ingredients as Junmaishu, but also the addition of distilled alcohol. It also has different seimaibuai. Seimaibuai is a rice polishing ratio. Rice used for sake is polished to remove the outer layer and zatsumi (unfavorable flavors). Using rice that is polished and closer to the core makes the sake taste clear. Ginjoshu uses rice with a polishing ratio of 60%. Anything under 50% falls under Daiginjo. If the rice’s polishing ratio is 60% and distilled alcohol is not added, the sake would be called Junmai Ginjoshu. Ginjoshu is also brewed at lower temperatures and fermented for a long time. The taste is distinctively fruity with a flowery aroma.
The last type is Honjozoshu. It includes distilled alcohol with a rice polish rate of 70% or less. The umami comes from the outer part of the rice. Because most of the rice is used when making Honjozoshu, the scent is mild, but the flavor is bold.
Meeting certain criteria gives the sake a certain name, like Junmai Ginjoshu. There are so many more sake like this, but we introduced the main ones. Try to find your favorite by picking which type you like first!