Deciphering Sake Labels, Some Guidelines.

Sake bottles from Japan are sometimes compared to pieces of art due to their beautiful and colorful labels. However, beautiful doesn't always mean practical, especially if you can't speak Japanese. Nonetheless, these aesthetically pleasing labels can sometimes make it difficult to understand and choose the bottle we want. Although there are more and more bottles with English descriptions on their labels, if you are becoming more adventurous with sake or visiting Japan, you will encounter sake bottles without any translation.


Generally speaking, sake labels follow a similar design pattern, so we thought we'd share a few tips and tricks to help you figure out what they mean. Take a screenshot of the below to use it when you go sake shopping!


Here are a few common words you might come across:


清酒= seishu 日本酒= nihonshu > both means Japanese sake

純米= junmai 特別純米= tokubetsu junmai 

純米吟醸= junmai ginjo 純米大吟醸= junmai daiginjo

吟醸= ginjo 大吟醸= daiginjo

製造年月日= date Bottled


understanding sake labels


For your convenience, the vast majority of the back labels of our bottles are translated into English. However, in cases where they are not, we recommend searching for the two most relevant terms.


精米歩合= “seimaibuai” Rice Polishing Ratio (%)

アルコール度= Alcohol Content 

These two often lead to misunderstandings as the rice polishing ratio is expressed in % and the alcohol content in Japanese “度” (degree). For example, sake with a polishing ratio of 60% and alcohol content of 15% would be expressed as 精米歩合= 60% / アルコール度= 15 度. 


People often think that 60% is the alcohol content, leading to confusion or scaring them away from the drink altogether!


We hope these guidelines will help you to understand sake further and give you the courage to try new exciting bottles!



The Sorakami Team

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