The range and quality of sake is largely determined by the rice-polishing ratio, variety of rice, variety of yeast and alcohol percentage. Depending on these factors, sake may be fruity or full-bodied, dry or sweet. When labeling sake, classification is determined by the rice-polishing ratio, brewing technique, ingredients or a combination thereof.

Rice -Polishing Ratio

  Rice-Polishing Ratio Characteristics

Daiginjo              (-shu)

50% or less

Ultra-premium sake slowly fermented at low temperatures. Delicate aroma and mild flavor.

Ginjo (-shu)

60% or less Premium sake carefully fermented to create a
refreshingly fruity aroma and mild flavor.

          Rice-polishing ratio
          Left: Brown Rice
          Center: 70%
          Right: 50%

Daiginjo or Ginjo brewed without additional alcohol are called Junmai Daiginjo or Junmai Ginjo.


  Ingredients Characteristic


Rice and Water
Literally “pure rice sake”, junmai is made only from rice and water. Using these ingredients, the junmai category includes a wide variety of sake styles, from light and mild, to rich and full-bodied.


Rice (polished to 70% or less), water and limited brewer's alcohol Literally “formal brew sake” (in comparison to futsu-shu), honjozo sake is made from rice polished to at least 70%, water, and a small addition of brewer's alcohol. This addition of alcohol is a traditional technique for creating a clean and mild-tasting sake.


Rice (not specified), water and brewer's alcohol Literally “ordinary sake”, futsu-shu is the most common type of sake in Japan, and contains a small percentage of brewer's alcohol but does not have a specifically determined rice-polishing ratio or brewing method. Futsu-shu is sold mainly in Japan but is exported to a limited number of other Asian countries. 

Brewing Technique

  Special Technique Characteristic

Nama Sake

Unpasteurized Contemporary, unpasteurized “draft sake.” Immediately after fermentation is complete, this sake passes through ultra-micro filters and is bottled unpasteurized. This process results in giving nama sake its fresh, fruity fragrance and smooth character.


Pasteurized only once Literally means "fresh storage". Regular pasteurized sake is usually heated twice: once before maturation, and once again before bottling. Namachozo sake is matured in a "fresh" state, and pasteurized only once before bottling. This sake style is typified by its mellow flavor and fresh nama sake-like aroma.

Nigori Sake

Roughly filtered Literally “cloudy sake”, nigori sake is roughly filtered after fermentation is finished and rice texture from the moromi remains. Nigori has a white and milky appearance. 


Extra aging for years Aged sake made through a maturation process requiring more than three years to complete. This sake is best known for its fine harmonization of complex aromas and deep flavors. Possessing a favorable bitterness and pleasant lingering taste, ko-shu is reminiscent of sherry.

Changes in consumer tastes and advancements in brewing technology have made it possible for the diversification of sake varieties. Combining rice-polishing ratios with new brewing methods have made it possible to develop such new sakes as Junmai Nama Sake and Ginjo Ko-shu.