Knowing the terminology used to describe sake will help you identify and explore the world of sake.
Glossary of Key Sake Terms
Futsu – Table Sake. No milling constraints. Table rice is often used and the addition of distilled alcohol to make it more accessible.
Honjozo – Rice polished down to a minimum of 70% and containing some brewer’s alcohol. Fragrant and lighter bodied than Junmai.
Junmai – Pure rice sake (no alcohol added). Rice can be milled to any percentage (usually to 70%) so long as it is listed on the label. Typically full-bodied with pronounced acidity.
Ginjo – Rice that has been milled down to 60% of its original size and fermented at colder temperatures. Elegant, refined and aromatic.
Daiginjo – Rice that has been milled down to less than 50% of its original size; the pinnacle of the sake brewer’s craft. Typically lighter, more fragrant, and fruitier than most Ginjo.
Genshu – Undiluted sake. Typically bold with a higher alcohol content.
Karakuchi – Dry sake.
Koshu – Aged sake.
Nama – Unpasteurized sake, lively and fruity.
Nigori – Unfiltered or “cloudy” sake. Textured and creamy on the palate.
Muroka – Most sake is charcoal filtered. Muroka means it has not undergone charcoal filtering.
Tokubetsu – “Special” sake. Brewers typically use this to make a Tokubetsu Honjozo or Tokubetsu Junmai. Usually there is a higher milling rate, or a special process is used to make the sake.
Arabashiri – The first press of a batch of sake.
Atsukan – Hot sake.
Kura – Sake brewery, short for Sakagura.
Nihonshu – Literally, “Japanese alcohol”. This is a term used to differentiate sake from other alcoholic beverages.
Seimai Buai – Milling rate of the rice used to make sake. This is represented as apercentage. The value indicated is what is left.
Shiboritate – Freshly pressed sake. Youthful sake.
Shimpaku – The white starch core of sake rice.
Toji – Master sake brewer.