Sake Grades

Buying sake can be confusing. There are many different types and Japanese terminology to grade the various brews of sake. It can be off-putting at first as it's often difficult to chose your first bottle. Here at the SakeStore, we'll try to make this process as easy as possible for you. Wheather you're new to sake or a seasoned sake master, our guides will help you choose the right sake for any situation.

Sake guide
Junmai variants - No added alcohol Non-Junmai variants - Added alcohol
Junmai Daiginjo
A strong bouquet complimented with a complex, light flavour. At the top of the pyramid; this is the highest class of junmai sake on the market. The rice used to brew this sake is polished to a minimum of 50%. The brewers use more complex methods and longer fermentation processes to squeeze the maximum taste and fragrance out of the rice. This gives junmai daiginjo sake the premium grade badge. Together with junmai ginjo it accounts for only 3.3% of the sake on the market making it a rare treat.
Daiginjo
The rice used to brew this sake is polished to a minimum of 50% during the milling process. The brewing methods are similar to that used in brewing junmai daiginjo, giving it a strong fragrance with a light but complex taste. The main difference is that some pure distilled brewers alcohol is added to it. It claims the top of the pyramid for non-jumai sake due to the complex processes and taste of the final product. Along with ginjo it only makes up 3.6% of the market. Slightly more than its non-added alcohol cousin.
Junmai Ginjo
A subclass of ginjo, the methods of brewing are similar, giving it a fruity/flowery, refined flavour. Often sacrificing traditional tools for modern machines and adopting more modern methods during fermentation. The rice used is polished to at least 60%. The brewing process is often labour-intensive and time consuming which gives this sake the second spot on the pyramid.
Ginjo
Also brewed with more modern methods and equipment, this sake has fruity/flowery notes with a refind flavour while remaining light. It is fermented for a long period at cold temperatures. The rice used is polished to at least 60%. As the brewing process is almost the same as junmai ginjo, the main difference is that a small amount of brewers alcohol is added.
Junmai
This type of sake often boasts that it is made from only the three main ingredients needed to brew sake: rice, water and koji - a type of mold used to induce fermentation. This gives it a strong flavour but well structured and clean. The rice used is polished to at least 70%. Some junmai sake are given the title 'tokubetsu junmai'. Tokubetsu means 'special' in Japanese. These sub-types of junmai are called so because a high grade or a higher polished rice is used. It accounts for around 10.8% of all sake on the market.
Honjozo
Brewed using similar processes to junmai and only using the same key three ingredients, the only difference of method is the adding of a small amount of brewers alcohol. Unlike the other types of sake, honjozo boasts a lighter taste with more fragrance than that of its class cousin - junmai. The rice used is also polished to at least 70% and the 'tokubetsu honjozu' class does exist but isn't seen as often as the tokubestu junmai. It makes up roughly 10.5% of sake on the market.
Futsu-shu
Futsu in Japanese means 'normal' or 'regular' and as such, futsu-shu only falls into the non-junmai category as large amounts of brewers alcohol is added to increase the return. There are no milling requirements for the rice and cheaper grade rice is used. Knowing this; futsu-shu should not be avoided as it is still a drink that has its own characteristics. Some futsu-shu are better than others, however, and the lower quality is reflected in the price. It dominates the market at around 72% of all sake sold.