Do you pay attention to the rice polishing ratio when you choose Nihon-shu?
Understanding what the rice polishing ratio broadens your insight in Nihon-shu.
Even those who pick a sake by the design of its bottle and label, can learn the different variety of Nihon-shu and become a ‘Nihon-shu snob’ by understanding what the rice polishing ratio means.
As a baseline of knowledge, ‘rice polishing ratio’ denotes how much of a grain of rice, which is the main ingredient to make Nihon-shu, is being polished away.
Simply put, how much outer layer of the rice is being removed.
As a side note, ‘buai’ means ‘ratio or percentage’ thus, ‘seimai buai’ refers how many percentages of a grain of rice is polished or milled away.
For example, the label on Nihon-shu called ‘Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi’ shows rice polishing ratio of 60%.
In this case, starting from harvested brown rice, 40% of weight is removed by polishing husks and outer layer of grains, with remaining kernels having 60% of the original weight.
This is strictly by a number, but it’s certain that ’60 % rice polishing ratio’ indicates 40% of a grain is being polished away.
A table rice, that is consumed in Japan, is also scraped off its husks and dirt on the surface for taste.
In the case of table rice, the average rice polishing ratio is between 90 and 95%, whereas most of rice polishing ratio in Nihon-shu is less than 70%.
Most of Nihon-shu are made from the rice which is significantly polished.
What is the reason behind it?
The outer part of a grain of rice is rich in protein and fats. However, those properties are not necessary when it comes to making Nihon-shu, so rice polishing ratio is adjusted accordingly in order to remove them.
Provided that, much protein and fats might result in ‘Zatsumi’ or unbalanced flavor to Nihon-shu.
Nishon-shu, less than 70% of rice polishing ratio, is finely categorized into ‘Honjozo-shu’, ‘Tokubetsu Honjozo-shu’, ‘Tokubetsu Junmai-shu’, ‘Ginjo-shu’, ‘Junmai Ginjo-shu’, and ‘Junmai Daiginjo-shu’.
‘Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi’ falls into ‘Junmai Ginjo-shu’ since it uses rice that has been polished down to 60% and doesn’t contain distilled brewed alcohol.
What are your thoughts on Nihon-shu?
Nihon-shu is a delicate and profound beverage.
In general, the lower rice polishing ratio figure, the pricier Nihon-shu gets because the amount of material that was removed is greater and requires more quantity of rice to make same amount of Nihon-shu.
However, ‘Expensive Nihon-shu’ doesn’t always mean ‘definitely delicious Nihon-shu’.
So, when choosing Nihon-shu, trust your palate and choose the one that meets your preference.
With the knowledge of ‘seimai buai’, explore the variety of Nihon-shu and search for your favorite bottle.