Sake Varieties

The range and quality of sake is largely determined by the rice polishing ratio, variety of rice, variety of yeast and alcohol percentage. Depending on these factors, sake may be fruity or full-bodied, dry or sweet. When labeling sake, classification is determined by the rice polishing ratio, brewing technique, ingredients or a combination thereof.

Rice Polishing Ratio

Type Rice Polishing Ratio Characteristics
Daiginjo From 50% Ultra-premium sake slowly fermented at low temperatures. Delicate aroma and mild flavor.
Ginjo From 60% Premium sake carefully fermented to create a refreshingly fruity aroma and mild flavor.

Brewing Technique

Changes in consumer tastes and advancements in brewing technology have made it possible for the diversification of sake varieties. Combining rice polishing ratios with new brewing methods have made it possible to develop such new sakes as Junmai Namazake and Ginjo Koshu.

Namazake

Contemporary, unpasteurized “draft sake.” Immediately after fermentation is complete, this sake passes through micro filters and is bottled unpasteurized. This process results in giving namazake its fresh, fruity fragrance and smooth character.

Namachozo-shu

Sake aged for maturation and heat pasteurized shortly before bottling. Namachozo-shu is typified by its mellow flavor and fresh namazake-like aroma.

Ko-shu

Aged sake made through a maturation process requiring more than one year to complete. This sake is best known for its fine harmonization of complex aromas and deep flavors. Possessing a favorable bitterness and pleasant lingering taste, ko-shu is reminiscent of sherry.

Ingredients

Junmai-shu

Literally “pure rice sake”, Junmai-shu is made only from rice and water. Using these ingredients, junmai sake is naturally brewed yielding a wide variety of sakes from light and mild to full-body.

Honjozo-shu

Literally “formal brew [in comparison to futsu-shu] sake”, Honjozo-shu is made from rice polished to at least 70%, water and a small addition of brewer's alcohol. This addition of alcohol is a traditional technique for creating a mild sake.

Futsu-shu

Literally “ordinary sake”, Futsu-shu the most common type of sake in Japan, contains a small percentage of brewer's alcohol but does not have a specifically determined rice polishing ratio or brewing method. Futsu-shu is sold mainly in Japan but is exported to a limited number of other Asian countries.

Although sake is a fermented beverage, taxation regulations in some countries classify sake with any added alcohol as a distilled beverage. Before consideration of importing such sake, taxation and labeling regulations should be carefully researched.

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