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Sake Types: Understanding the Difference
Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from polished rice and water and plays an important role in Japanese culture. There are many different types of sake, distinguished by their rate of rice polishing and the addition of brewing alcohol. While some varieties, such as Junmai sake, are brewed without the addition of alcohol, others, such as Futsū-shu, contain not inconsiderable amounts of it. This article explains the differences between various sake varieties and discusses whether the quality of sake should be assessed solely on the basis of the rice polishing rate or the addition of brewery alcohol.
Sake is brewed without the addition of alcohol and the rice polishing rate is undefined.
For Honjōzō Sake, the rice polishing rate is at least 70% and brewery alcohol is added.
Sake has a rice polishing rate of at least 60% and brewery alcohol is added.
ForSake, the rice polishing rate is at least 50% and brewery alcohol is added.
Sake is brewed without the addition of alcohol and the rice polishing rate is at least 60%.
ForSake, the rice polishing rate is at least 50% and it is brewed without added alcohol.
Futsū-shu or table sake does not belong to the premium sake segment but still makes up about 60% of the sake consumed in Japan. Futsū-shu is made from table rice and contains various additives such as organic acids, amino acids, sugar, and significant amounts of brewery alcohol.
We generally do not recommend consuming this type of sake. However, there are exceptions. The Japanese National Tax Agency can declare Junmai Sake as Futsū-shu if it is made from table rice, even if no alcohol is added. The same applies to sake where the koji content is below 15%.
Junmai Daiginjo Sake is often referred to as the highest quality sake. However, we believe that the quality of sake should not necessarily be measured by the rice polishing rate or the omission of brewery alcohol. There are numerous examples of non-Junmai Daiginjo sake that has an incredibly harmonious character and cannot be "quality-wise" hidden.
Overall, there are many factors that can influence the quality of sake and it is difficult to reduce them to the rate of rice polishing or the addition of brewery alcohol. Although Junmai Daiginjo sake is often considered the best sake, there are many examples of other types of sake that are equally harmonious and of high quality. Ultimately, the choice of sake depends on individual preferences and it is worth trying different varieties and discovering the diverse flavours and textures of Japan's national drink.