a-1. Are there different types of sake?

Yes; in fact there are many types. While the basic ingredients of sake are always the same—rice, water, koji (mold) and sake yeast—the way the rice is polished and fermented creates the unique characteristics of each of the different types. Below are brief descriptions of each type.

a-2. Junmai-type sake

The word Junmai means ‘pure rice’. It is sake composed of rice, water, koji (mold), and sake yeast; no other ingredients are added. It has a full-bodied character with complex flavors. The process of Junmai sake- making, mastered by the end of the 19th century, is the foundation of all sake production and continues to contemporary times. Rice for this type of sake is polished down to 70% of its original weight (Seimaido: 70).  Junmai sake should be served at room temperature or warmed

a-3. Tokubetsu Junmai-type sake

Tokubetsu means “special,” and refers to the premium type of Junmai sake. For this type of sake the rice has been polished to a higher degree than that of the Junmai type. The dominating qualities of this sake type are its smoothness and mild flavor.  Rice for Tokubetsu Junmai-type sake is polished down to 65-60% of its original weight. (Seimaido: 65-60). Tokubetsu Junmai sake should be served at room temperature or warmed.

a-4. Honjozo-type sake

Alcohol is added to this type of sake during the brewing process; the added alcohol cannot exceed 25% of the total alcohol in the finished product. Because of the fortification of this sake with alcohol, it is not called a Junmai, or ‘pure rice’, type of sake. Due to the fact that any fortified sake would be taxed with much higher rate than Junmai type sake, Honjozo-type sake is not produced in the United States.  This sake’s character and taste is similar to that of the Junmai type, but usually it has lighter body and clean taste. It pairs well with a wide range of foods. As a result, Honjozo is a popular choice of sake both in restaurants and homes; additionally, it is affordably priced. Honjozo-type sake should be served at room temperature or warmed.

a-5. Ginjo-type sake

Ginjo is brewed by using highly polished rice and a special type of yeast. The sake is lighter and has a clean, delicate, fruity flavor with a lingering sweetness, and a distinct floral bouquet, called ‘Ginjoka.’  Ginjo type sake was created in the mid-20th century. Rice for Ginjo-type sake is polished down to 60-50% of its original weight (Seimaido: 60-50). When you see “Junmai Ginjo” on the label of a bottle of sake it refers to Ginjo-type sake made purely with rice. If the sake is made with added alcohol you will not see the word Junmai in front of Ginjo. Ginjo-type sake should be served at room temperature or chilled..

a-6. DaiGinjo-type sake

DaiGinjo (Great/Large Ginjo)-type sake is Ginjo-type sake with rice polished to a very high degree. The rice in DaiGinjo-type sake is polished down to 50-25% of its original weight (Seimaido: 50-25). In order to polish rice to this extremely small volume, only shutekikotekimai (the best-suited rice for sake making) is used. This most labor-intensive and hence expensive sake shows off with an exquisite floral bouquet, Ginjoka, and a rich flavor. When you see a sake labeled Junmai DaiGinjo it refers to DaiGinjo-type sake made purely with rice. If sake is made with added alcohol you will not see the word Junmai in front of DaiGinjo. DaiGinjo-type sake should be served at room temperature or chilled.

a-7. Nama-type sake

Nama means “fresh or raw.” This draft-style sake is partially pasteurized or unpasteurized. It has a young, fruity taste and a refreshing aroma. Junmai-type Nama or Ginjo-type Nama can be made. Nama sake is typically served chilled to preserve its young, refreshing character. Nama sake is perishsble, and has shorter shelf life than pasteurized sake. Nama-type sake’s shelf life is about 6 months and you need to consume within 2 days once the bottle is open. Nama-type sake should be served chilled.

a-8. Nigori-type sake

Nigori-type sake is unfiltered or partially filtered sake, so that some rice solids are bottled along with the sake.  This sake has a milky white appearance and a bold, sweet taste. Junmai-type Nigori or Ginjo-type Nigori can be made. Nigori-type sake should be served chilled..

a-9. Genshu-type sake

Genshu is sake containing its original alcohol content, undiluted with water. After fermentation and pasteurization, sake normally contains an alcohol content of around 18%, and, for the commercial market, is usually diluted with water to 12- 16%. Genshu is 18% alcohol; bold, full-bodied and rich. Genshu-type sake should be served chilled.

a-10. Kimoto-type / Yamahai-type sake

Kimoto-type sake is considered to be the precursor of Junmai-type sake making, employing a process in which airborne lactobacillus is used to promote the natural growth of healthy yeast. However, because of the potential of exposure of the yeast to damaging microorganisms in the air, the process transitioned into the safer Yamahai system. Sake produced in this style has a deep, complex, and rich taste, which makes the Kimoto-type a great food pairing sake. Junmai Kimoto-type sake should be served at room temperature or warmed.

a-11. Taruzake-type sake

Before glass bottles were introduced, sake was transported in wooden barrels (Taru). Today, because the usage of barrels can cause bacterial growth, barrels are used only on celebratory occasions, such as at weddings and grand openings of stores/businesses, when a ritual called Kagamibiraki , or “breaking-a-barrel” is observed.  Taruzake-type sake retains a fresh, woody taste and bouquet. Taruzake-type sake can be served chilled to warmed.

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