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Sake Trivia

Types of Japanese Sake

Japanese sake displays subtle changes in flavor depending on the season. 

It is also one of the few alcoholic beverages that can be enjoyed either warm or chilled.

About Sake Rice

"Iwai" and "Kyo no Kagayaki" are two varieties of rice used for sake particular to Kyoto Prefecture, and can be used only in Kyoto breweries.

Rice, water, and craftsmanship: please taste sake entirely produced in Kyoto.

Iwai

With a history dating back to 1933, cultivation ceased for a time, but was then revived in 1992. With a large grain, it is perfect for production of sake such as ginjo-shu, and it has a smooth, soft taste with expansiveness.

Kyo no Kagayaki

A new variety born in 2012, it was selected for test growing by prefectural and national institutes for agricultural research and for use in test brewing by the Fushimi Sake Brewers Association. The particular characteristics of its brew are a rich aroma and a gentle taste.

Sake types and their characteristics

Ginjo-shu

This is a type of sake made from white rice that has had at least 40% of its surface polished away (so that what remains is at most 60% of the size of the original rice grain), which is then brewed under intense scrutiny using a low temperature fermentation process. One can say that Ginjo-shu is the crystallization of the brewer's art, technique and experience.

Junmai-shu

This sake is made from rice and koji(rice mold). As the name suggests, only rice is used as an ingredient (junmai means 'pure rice'). The degree of polishing of the rice grains is not specified. Junmai-shu has a full-bodied flavor, but in recent years we are starting to see light-bodied Junmai-shu products on the market.

 Honjozo-shu

Made from rice that has had at least 30% of its surface polished away (so that what remains is at most 70% of the size of the original rice grain) and koji (rice mold) as well as a limited amount of brewer's alcohol. Honjozo-shu has a flavor similar in body to Junmai-shu, however you may find it more crisp, dry and mellow.

Other characteristic types of sake

Futsu-shu

This is standard quality sake that does not qualify for a class name. In terms of consumption, this is the most popular type of sake in Japan. These sakes typically have a dry flavor with a taste that the palate quickly takes to.

Gen-shu

Once the crude sake (moromi) has been pressed, no water is added. This is a full-bodied sake with an alcohol content of between 18% and 20%.

Nigori-sake

Once the fermentation process is complete, the liquid is filtered through a rough cloth or strainer, and the result is Nigori-sake. The liquid is milky cloudy as opposed to clear, and the Nigori-sake has the flavor of the moromi.

Nama-sake

Most sakes are heat processed (pasteurized) twice prior to shipping. Nama-sake undergoes reduced heat processing, or none at all. In this regard Nama-sake drinkers relish the flavor of the pressed moromi. Nama-sake has a fresh flavor and is best enjoyed chilled.

Ko-syu (sake placed in storage for a long time)

Normally, Japanese sake is stored for a few months, or up to one year, prior to shipping. However, in recent years some new sake products have appeared on the market whereby the sake has been stored for 3, 5 or even 10 years.

(Source)“KYOTO FUSHIMI SAKE GUIDE( External link ) ”presented by Fushimi Sake Brewers Association.

4 Types of Sake Identifiable by Taste and Aroma

As with wine, sake is a drink to be enjoyed alongside a meal. Different brands can be enjoyed for their particular rich flavours and aromas, and paired not just with Japanese cuisine, but various cuisines from around the world as well. There are four main groups into which sake can be divided by taste and aroma, and each can be enjoyed in different ways. Are you ready to embark on a journey to discover your perfect sake?

A.【Fruity】

(Aroma) Floral and light, with a bouquet of fruits and flowers

(Taste) Nice degree of sweetness and mellowness, striking a balance with a refreshing tartness

(Typical sake varieties) Daiginjo, Ginjo,etc.

(Pairs well with) Dishes that bring out the flavour of ingredients such as sansai mountain vegetables and seafood

B.【Light and smooth】

(Aroma) Gentle and modest on the nose

(Taste) Refreshing and silky in the mouth

(Typical sake varieties) Honjozo, Futsu-shu, Nama-zake,etc.

(Pairs well with) Light cuisine with subtle flavours and aftertastes

C.【Bold-bodied】

(Aroma) Rich umami aroma with hints of woodiness and dairy products

(Taste) Well-rounded taste, with good balance of sweetness, tartness, and pleasant bitterness

(Typical sake varieties) Junmai (especially Kimoto and Yamahai)and more

(Pairs well with) Cuisine that utilises the savoury qualities of meat and dairy ingredients

D.【Matured】

(Aroma) Features bold and complex aromas of spices and dried fruits

(Taste) Harmony between cloying sweetness and the mild acidity from the ageing process

(Typical sake varieties) Koshu aged sake,etc.

(Pairs well with) Rich cuisine made with high-protein content ingredients

From the "& SAKE: Sake BOOK for those over 20" of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association

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