Types of Sake

Nada no Kippon

Sake? Nihonshu? Seishu?

 Outside of Japan, Sake is generally called Sake, but in Japan, sake is also a general name for alcoholic beverages, so it is generally called Nihonshu.
The name “Nihonshu” was used to distinguish it from beer and wine from the Meiji period.

What is Seishu?

In Japan,we sometimes use the word “Seishu” to talk about Sake, Basically, all Nihonshu is Seishu. The definition of “Seishu” (as defined in the Liquor Tax Law of Japan) is fermented from rice, rice-Koji and water and filtered. (alcohol content of less than 22 degrees) *.

* And some additives of the world are permitted by the government ordinance.

Types of sake

There are 2ways of classifying Japanese Sake. There are “Legal Categorization” and Other classification used by brewers and so on.

Legal Categorization of Sake

By law, sake is divided into Tokutei meisho-shu and Futsuu-shu.

Tokutei meisho-shu are classified into the following 8 types, and those not included in those 8 types are classified as Futsuu-shu.

Tokutei meisho-shu

Tokutei meisho-shu must be made from only rice, rice-Koji, water, and some added pure distilled alcohol for brewing. The Koji rate must be 15% or more. The rice used must be above a certain grade. The amount of alcohol added must be less than the specified value. It is necessary to satisfy the conditions such as.

No add alcohol

Junmai Daiginjyo-shuGinjyo-process,Seimaibuai:50% or less
Junmai Ginjyo-shuGinjyo-process,Seimaibuai:60% or less
Tokubetsu Junmai-shuSeimaibuai:60% or less. or Special process

Add alcohol

Daiginjyo-shuGinjyo-process,Seimaibuai:50% or less
Ginjyo-shuGinjyo-process,Seimaibuai:60% or less
Honjouzou-shuSeimaibuai:70% or less
Tokubetsu Honjouzou-shuSeimaibuai:60% or less. or Special process


“Futsuu-shu” is not categorized as “Tokutei meisho-shu” under the liquor tax of Japan. This means that there are parts that do not meet the conditions for claiming “Tokutei meisho-shu”. for example, “Futsuu-shu” does not use “ Koji”that is specified in “Tokutei meisho-shu”, uses raw rice that does not reach the specified grade, or adds a amount of brewing alcohol than the specified amount. Also seasoning additives such as sugars and acidulants are added. Such low quality sake is in distribution. These are not recommended for those who know about sake and want to enjoy the experience.

However, some “Futsuu-shu” is equivalent to “Tokutei meisho-shu” or better in quality, but for sake brewing commitment, it does not conform to the rules of “Tokutei meisho-shu” among legal texts, so some good sakes are inevitability classified as “Futsuu-shu”.(For example, it is necessary to determine the rice polishing ratio for each brand, so it is not possible to blend and bottle sake with different rice polishing ratios)

You can find these high-quality “Futsuu-shu” by looking closely. They appear in “Nihonshu- Tourism”, our sister site.

Other classification of Sake

There are many classifications of Sake, but the main ones are as follows.

Type Chracter & Comment
Sake is usually aged from half a year to one year, but Chouki-jyukusei-shu is aged for a longer period of time. The color ranges from light amber to ruby.
Like sake, it is made by fermenting rice, but it is commercialized in rural areas. Doburoku is not filtered, So it is classified as “other brewed sake” under the Sake Tax Act.
GenshuAfter pressing The Mash (Moromi), water is not added to adjust the alcohol content. High alcohol content and strong.
Hiyaoroshi Freshly brewed sake that is stored and matured over the spring and summer, and shipped at the beginning of autumn.
Happo-shuChampagne-like Sake containing carbon dioxide
KiipponJunmai sake made only at one of its own production sites
Namachozo-shuThe Mash (Moromi) is freshly pressed and stored at a low temperature, and is pasteurized only once before shipment, so the flavor remains
Namadume-shuIt has pressed and after first pasteurized, then storaged it about half a year, and shipping without second pasteurization.
NamazakeIt is not pasteurized with sake just pressed The Mash (Moromi), it has a fresh taste. Some contain carbonic acid
Nigori-sakeWhite cloudy Sake that has just been filtered with a coarse cloth.
Orizake , OrigaramiAfter pressing the Mash (moromi), white cloudy Sake containing Koji that is take from the bottom of the Racking tank
ShinshuGenerally speaking, it means freshly made Sake, But in the brewing industry, Shinshu means “shipped within the brewing year ”(July from the beginning of production to June of the following year).