Classifications of Sake
There are a handful of ways that you can classify sake. Without a right or wrong, here, we’ll do our best to inform you of how we divided them for your ease of shopping on Takasan.
Junmai means "pure rice." Categorically, a junmai doesn't require a specific rice milling percentage. It's the quintessential form of sake, brewed from sake's 4 core ingredients (rice, water, koji, yeast). Any sake with junmai in its name bears the credit of not holding any distilled alcohol additives. You’ll often find junmai affixed in front of “ginjo” or “daiginjo” - which simply lets us know that while those sakes were made from rice polished to at least 60% and 50% respectively, there was no distilled alcohol added to the junmai ginjo or junmai daiginjo. While it's hard to over-generalize, you can expect sakes in this category to be more rich and full bodied with a subtle acidity.
Ginjo is categorically a super premium sake that uses rice polished to at least 60 percent. What differentiates Ginjo from a Junmai Ginjo is the small quantity of distilled alcohol added throughout the sake brewing process. This grade of sake generally produces a great balance of floral aromas and dynamic fruit notes coupled with layers of umami and acidity on the palate.
Daiginjo is regarded as Japan's ultra premium class of sake that requires the highest level of craftsmanship. This grade of sake uses rice polished to at least 50 percent. What differentiates a Junmai Daiginjo from a Daiginjo is that there is no added distillant. Sakes in this category are known for its impeccably balanced, fragrant, and smooth delicate taste.
Nigoris are unfiltered sake, which attributes for the cloudy appearance and milky mouthfeel. You can oftentimes find small bits of rice sediment hanging in the bottle in case you need further convincing that it was indeed unfiltered. Because nigoris tend to be on the sweeter end of sake, we love them as or with desserts.
“Ume” (梅:うめ), commonly referred to as a Japanese plum, is a fruit bearing tree most closely related to an apricot. Umeshu, or “plum wine,” is the most popular fruit liqueur in Japan. It is made by steeping the ume fruits in sake. There is a sweetness, tartness, and aroma imparted by the steeping ume that makes umeshu enjoyable even by those who may not enjoy alcoholic drinks.
Sparkling sake, as its name might give away, is sake that has a bit of bubbly-ness to it. This is achieved in one of two ways: 1. Through carbonation of traditional types of sake or 2. A secondary fermentation in the bottle. The second method is akin to how champagne is made. Because sparkling sake is generally light in flavor, those who may not find themselves the biggest fan of traditional sake find kinship with sparkling sake. Whether you’re a sake aficionado or first timer, sparkling sake is one of our favorites here.
Namazake denotes the lack of pasteurization in the alcohol. Often referred to simply as “Nama” in conjunction with the specific polished ratio grade. The toji’s (master brewers) believe that by not pasteurizing their sake, you’re able to more clearly taste the nuances in the sakes they brew. Definitely go chilled with your namas.
Choose your pick and try it out. You never know which kind will become your new favorite!