Top 10 Types of Sake

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Sake is a traditional Japanese rice wine made by fermenting polished rice. Hot sake is a popular winter drink and quality sake is served cold or at room temperature, as that will preserve the delicate flavors and aromas. However, there are many different types of sake, let’s take a detailed look at them below.

Types of Sake

Premium sake is categorized by how much the rice has been polished in order to remove the bran. A lower rice ratio denotes a more premium product.

  • Daiginjo-Shu and Ginjo-Shu (also known as junmai ginjo) are both considered high-quality sakes, with their polished rice ratios below 50% and 60%, respectively.
  • Junmai-Shu and Honjozo-Shu are lower in quality, with polished rice rations below 70%. All of these varieties use traditional koji rice.
  • Another type of sake, that is Akai, is named for the bright red variation of koji that gives it such a distinctive color.

Traditional types of sake have a more delicate flavor than wine, with dry, nutty notes.

Japanese sake and Pacific saury

Sake with a high alcohol content will usually have a rich smoky taste. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sakes are also distinguished by how they are handled after fermentation:

  • Yamahai is a quick brew version and produces bold flavors.
  • Namazake or nama is an unpasteurized sake that has a much shorter shelf life and requires refrigeration.
  • Namachozo is only pasteurized once for a gentler flavor.
  • Nigori is a cloudy sake that is not filtered, leaving the sediment in the bottle.
  • Taru sake is aged in barrels of Japanese cedar for an earthy taste.
  • Koshu is also aged for at least ten years, giving it a honey color and sweet taste.
  • Arabashiri is sake that has not been aged at all, which gives it a full, bright flavor.

Modern sakes include infused sake and sparkling sake, which are sweeter than traditional flavors. Kinpaku-iri is sake with gold leaf in it for decoration.

Most sake is diluted with water after brewing and has an ABV of around 15%. However, undiluted sake, known as genshu, can reach an ABV of 20%. For more details, you can visit our article on Everything You Need To Know About Sake.

Word of Caution: Moderation is key. The risks involved with drinking excessive alcohol can be short term such as violence and injuries to long-term health risks such as chronic diseases. Alcoholism and binge drinking can undo any possible good things that moderate amounts can impart.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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