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What Is Sake?

Sake is the National drink
of Japan!  


With a history going back over 1,500 years,

sake is central to Japanese culture.

Sake is the National drink
of Japan!  


With a history going back over 1,500 years,

sake is central to Japanese culture.



Sake is fermented!
ABV ≈ 15%


It is not a distilled liquor nor a spirit.


Sake is fermented!
ABV ≈ 15%


It is not a distilled liquor nor a spirit.


Sake is sipped,
like a wine.


Best enjoyed in a wine glass,

sake is not to be drunk as a shot.


Sake is sipped,
like a wine.


Best enjoyed in a wine glass,

sake is not to be drunk as a shot.


Sake can be enjoyed
hot & cold.

Traditional sake is usually enjoyed hot while newer and more refined sake is usually best enjoyed chilled.

Sake can be enjoyed
hot & cold.


Traditional sake is usually enjoyed hot

while newer and more refined sake

is usually best enjoyed chilled.


Sake is excellent with
all kinds of cuisine.


Sake is not limited to Japanese cuisine

but will pair fantastically with world cuisine.


Sake is excellent with
all kinds of cuisine.


Sake is not limited to Japanese cuisine

but will pair fantastically with world cuisine.


The ingredients of sake.

Rice

Just like wine is made with special grapes, sake is brewed using special rice varieties.

Sake rice has larger and softer grains with a high starch but low protein content, perfect for brewing delicious sake. Growing sake rice is hard labour making it more expensive than wine grapes.

Water

Water plays a crucial role throughout the entire sake brewing process so it is of utmost importance this water comes from the purest source.

Luckily Japan has plenty of pristine spring water sources, and breweries are usually located near them.

Koji & Yeast

Koji-kin (aspergillus oryzae) is the mould used to convert the rice starch into sugar. It is sprinkled over 20% of the rice to create Koji-rice.

Yeasts are used to convert the sugar created by the Koji-kin into alcohol. Yeast plays a crucial part in creating the final aromas of sake.


The ingredients of sake.

Rice

Just like wine is made with special grapes, sake is brewed using special rice varieties.

Sake rice has larger and softer grains with a high starch but low protein content, perfect for brewing delicious sake. Growing sake rice is hard labour making it more expensive than wine grapes.

Water

Water plays a crucial role throughout the entire sake brewing process so it is of utmost importance this water comes from the purest source.

Luckily Japan has plenty of pristine spring water sources, and breweries are usually located near them.

Koji & Yeast

Koji-kin (aspergillus oryzae) is the mould used to convert the rice starch into sugar. It is sprinkled over 20% of the rice to create Koji-rice.

Yeasts are used to convert the sugar created by the Koji-kin into alcohol. Yeast plays a crucial part in creating the final aromas of sake.


Sake is brewed.

Sake is brewed using a unique fermentation method called “multiple parallel fermentations.” This is where the transformation of the rice starch into sugar (saccharification) and the one of sugar into alcohol (fermentation) happens at the same time, in parallel. Sake is the only drink in the world fermented this way. It is also the fermentation process that naturally yields the highest alcohol level up to 20%.

Sake is brewed.

Sake is brewed using a unique fermentation method called “multiple parallel fermentations.” This is where the transformation of the rice starch into sugar (saccharification) and the one of sugar into alcohol (fermentation) happens at the same time, in parallel. Sake is the only drink in the world fermented this way. It is also the fermentation process that naturally yields the highest alcohol level up to 20%.

Sake is enjoyed like a wine.

Sake has been traditionally drunk warm and in small ceramic cups. However, with the development of new technologies and the refinement of rice milling techniques, lighter and more aromatic sakes have entered the market. These modern labels are best enjoyed chilled and in a wine glass.

The Families of Premium Sake

are categorised according to two criteria ...



Criteria 01
The Addition or Not
of Pure Alcohol.

Brewers can add a small quantities of pure distilled alcohol to adjust and enhance the aroma and flavour profile of sake.


Junmai

Not Added

Junmai sakes are brewed using only rice, water, koji and yeast. These sakes are often considered the "purest" and represent about 25% of the total production of sake in Japan. They tend to have a fuller body and a stronger character.

Non-Junmai

Added

Non-Junmai sakes are brewed using rice, water, koji and yeast but unlike junmais, a small amount of alcohol is added to enhance the flavour and fragrance of the sake. Non-Junmais are slightly more floral and aromatic.


Criteria 02
The Rice Polishing Ratio
or "seimaibuai".

It refers to the size of the rice grain remaining after polishing, it is expressed in %. The lower the %, the more premium the sake.


Ginjo

60% to 50%

Ginjo sakes are brewed using rice milled down to at least 60% of its original size. They are light and refreshing. Ginjos offer beautiful floral and fruity nuances on the palate and are best served chilled. They became popular in the '80s with the advancement of rice polishing machine.

Daiginjo

50% or less

Regarded as ultra-premium sake, daiginjos are produced with rice polished down to at least 50%. They are brewed in smaller quantities and requires the highest level of craftsmanship and expertise. Daiginjos are reputed for their exceptional aromatic and fruity flavour profile.


Criteria 01
The Addition or Not of Distilled Alcohol.

Brewers can add a small quantities of pure distilled alcohol to adjust and enhance the aroma and flavour profile of sake.


Junmai

No Added Alcohol

Junmai sakes are brewed using only rice, water, koji and yeast. These sakes are often considered the "purest" and represent about 25% of the total production of sake in Japan. They tend to have a fuller body and a stronger character.

Non-Junmai

Added Alcohol

Non-Junmai sakes are brewed using rice, water, koji and yeast but unlike junmais, a small amount of alcohol is added to enhance the flavour and fragrance of the sake. Non-Junmais are slightly more floral and aromatic.


Criteria 02
The Rice Polishing Ratio.

It refers to the size of the rice grain remaining after polishing, it is expressed in %. The lower the %, the more premium the sake.


Ginjo

60% to 50%

Ginjo sakes are brewed using rice milled down to at least 60% of its original size. They are light and refreshing. Ginjos offer beautiful floral and fruity nuances on the palate and are best served chilled. They became popular in the '80s with the advancement of rice polishing machine.

Daiginjo

50% or less

Regarded as ultra-premium sake, daiginjos are produced with rice polished down to at least 50%. They are brewed in smaller quantities and requires the highest level of craftsmanship and expertise. Daiginjos are reputed for their exceptional aromatic and fruity flavour profile.


The Grades of Premium Sake

The further down, the more polished,

the more premium and expensive the sake.


Rice Polishing Ratio
expressed in %

Junmai Sake
"Pure Rice"

Non-Junmai Sake
"Added Alcohol"

Brown Rice

Junmai Sake

Junmai sakes are "pure rice" sakes brewed exclusively with rice, water, koji and yeast. There are no minimum polishing ratio requirements. Nothing is else is added. They are regarded as the purest and more traditional kind of sake.

Junmai sakes tend to be fuller, richer and less aromatic. They are great paired with meat or enjoyed warmed on a cold day.

70%

Honjozo

Unlike junmais, honjozo sakes are brewed with rice, water, koji, yeast and a small amount of pure distilled alcohol. Nothing else can be added, no acid, no sugar etc. The rice used for brewing must have a polishing ratio of 70%. That is, 70% of the rice grain is left, and 30% of it has been polished away.

60% to 50%

Junmai Ginjo

A "pure rice" sake brewed only with rice, water, koji and yeast. To be classified as a junmai ginjo, the rice polishing ratio must be at least 60%, i.e. 40% of the grain must be milled away.

Junmai ginjos are more refined and aromatic than regular junmais.

Ginjo

A sake with added alcohol brewed with rice polished down to at least 60%, similar to junmai ginjos.

For simplicity, if the prefix junmai isn't mentioned, it means it is a honjozo with added alcohol.

Ginjos are soft and aromatic, more than honjozos and most junmai ginjos.

50% or less

Junmai Daiginjo

A "pure rice" sake brewed with rice polished down to at least 50%. More refined and delicate than junmais and junmai ginjos, they are often the most premium and sought after sake in the market. Junmai Daiginjos are regarded as the "all-stars" of the sake world.

Junmai daiginjos are the most aromatic of all junmai sakes.

Daiginjo

An alcohol added sake brewed with rice polished down to at least 50%. Daiginjos are exceptionally aromatic and floral. Just like junmai daiginjos, they are some of the most celebrated sake in the market.

Daiginjos are often the big winners at sake competitions around the world.

Rice Polishing Ratio in %

Junmai
"Pure Rice"

Non-Junmai
"Alcohol Added"

Brown Rice

Junmai

Junmai sakes are "pure rice" sakes brewed exclusively with rice, water, koji and yeast. There are no minimum polishing ratio requirements.

70%

Honjozo

Unlike junmais, honjozo sakes are brewed with rice, water, koji, yeast and a small amount of pure distilled alcohol.

60% to 50%

Junmai Ginjo

A "pure rice" sake brewed only with rice, water, koji and yeast. To be classified as a junmai ginjo, the rice polishing ratio must be at least 60%, i.e. 40% of the grain must be milled away.

Ginjo

For simplicity, if the prefix junmai isn't mentioned, it means it is a honjozo with added alcohol.

50% or less

Junmai Daiginjo

A "pure rice" sake brewed with rice polished down to at least 50%. More refined and delicate than junmais and junmai ginjos, they are often the most premium and sought after sake in the market.

Daiginjo

An alcohol added sake brewed with rice polished down to at least 50%. Daiginjos are exceptionally aromatic and floral. Just like junmai daiginjos, they are some of the most celebrated sake in the market.


The other common types of sake.

They are not mutually exclusive but can sometimes co-exist!


Nigori

Highly recognisable due to its cloudy white colour, nigori sake, or nigorizake, is sake in which sake-kasu (sake lees), the white residues, have been left behind on purpose. They are rich and creamy.

Nama

Unpasteurised sakes are called namazake or nama sake. They have not gone through the standard double pasteurisation. They are fresher and livelier.

Sparkling

They are new and popular among consumers new to sake. They tend to be less alcoholic with an ABV between 5% and 12%.

Genshu

Sake, with no added water to lower the level of alcohol, is called "genshu." Brewers omit this step to create more potent sake usually between 16% and 20% ABV. They are often drunk on the rocks.

Kijoshu

Sweeter style of sake perfect for aperitif or dessert. Brewers stop the fermentation early to increase the overall sugar content of the br

Aged

A rare breed of sake. Brewers can age sake in tanks, bottles, ceramic jars and more. They are characterised by their caramel, honey, dried fruits and spices flavour profile.

Sake Quiz