|2005 Winter - Sake Intro - Sake Today - Sake Primer
photography by Ryoichi Okazaki / text courtesy of Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Co., Ltd.
|Sake is classified into several types according to different brewing methods and ingredients. In particular, the varying degrees of rice milling or polishing decide the category and flavor. Seimai means rice polishing. It is a process to remove outer parts of the grains that will be used for sake. The outer parts contain fats and proteins that reduce the quality of the sake. The degree of rice polishing categorizes sake into five types: futsu, honjozo, ginjo, daiginjo, and special daiginjo.
Daiginjo must be made with rice that is polished and processed until the grains are less than half of their original size, malted rice, water, and brewer's alcohol. It is brewed slowly at low fermentation temperatures. In the case of junmai-daiginjo, no brewer's alcohol is added; it is therefore, super-premium sake of the highest degree.
The distinct, intricate brew of ginjo comes from fragrant ester emitted from specific yeasts placed in an extremely harsh situation of low temperatures and nutrition. Low temperatures combined with the labor-intensive techniques used in polishing away the surface of the rice grains create the delicate flavor of the ginjo. That's why it is considered an exquisite, luxurious type of sake.
This sake glass was designed especially for tasting daiginjo. The point projecting up from the bottom will enhance the aroma of sake. The sake is the junmai-daiginjo Kagatobi made from the Yamadanishiki strain of rice.
Types of rice used for producing sake and their seimai-buai (degree of polishing)
Genmai (unpolished rice), 100%
Sake made with rice polished so it retains at least 70 percent of its original size is classified as futsu (literally, normal sake). High-quality sake rice is rarely used for this type of sake.
Rice for Honjozo, 70% or less
Classified as honjozo, the rice is polished so that no more than 70 percent of the grain remains. Honjozo is sake to which a small amount of distilled alcohol has been added. If the sake is only rice, water and malted rice, it is called simply junmai.
Rice for Ginjo, 60% or less
Ginjo is sake made with rice, malted rice, and brewer's alcohol and brewed slowly under low fermentation temperatures. The rice is polished so it is 60 percent of its original size or smaller. In the case of junmai-ginjo, no brewer's alcohol is added.
Rice for Daiginjo, 50% or less
Daiginjo is sake brewed from rice polished so no more than 50 percent of the grain remains. Only the white opaque starchy cores are used for brewing, which produces an exquisite, refreshing taste. Very delicate and skilled techniques are required to insure that the grains of rice do not crack.
Rice for Special Daiginjo, around 40%
Special daiginjo is the sake brewers send to exhibitions and competitions. It is produced with rice polished to about 40 percent of original size. The photo shows "Ultra Deluxe Junmai-daiginjo Hakutsuru Asahigura" polished to 38 percent. The grains are almost round.
Articles from the 2005 WINTER issue:
Kateigaho International Edition Issues:
2005 SUMMER - 2005 SPRING - 2005 WINTER
2004 AUTUMN - 2004 SUMMER - 2004 SPRING - 2004 WINTER
2003 AUTUMN - INAUGURAL ISSUE