You may often come across terms like Daiginjo, Ginjo, Honjozo or Junmai when look at a sake menu. But, what does is it mean? These terms classify “Special Designation Sake” (also known as premium sake) based on various factors such as milling rate and alcohol content.What is milling rate?
Sake rice is milled before brewing, this removes excess components of minerals, proteins and lipids that found on the outer layers of the grain. Milling removes a certain percent of the rice grain and what remains is used to make the sake. For example, if 60% of the rice grain is milled away, 40% of the rice grain remains and this means the milling rate is 40%. Milling rate (in Japanese Seimaibuai 精米歩合) is usually indicated on the back label of the bottle.
(the photo above is an example of a milling rate indicated on the back label of a bottle.)
What are the sake classifications?
Sake can be divided into two groups, Junmai-shu group (sake with no brewer’s alcohol added) and Honjozo group (sake with brewer’s alcohol added) with each group sub-divided according to their milling rates.
（Please note that even though Honjozo group has added brewers alcohol it doesn’t mean it’s inferior to the Junmai-shu group. The reasons brewers add a small amount of alcohol are to give the sake a dryer, sharper taste; to boost aromas or to stop the fermentation once the brewer is satisfied with his fermentation mash.）
- Sake with no addition of brewer's alcohol can be called a Junmai 純米, the milling rate needs to be indicated on the label.
- Milling rate of 60% or less is known as Junmai Ginjo 純米吟醸,
- Milling rate of 50% or less is known as Junmai Daiginjo 純米大吟醸.
- Milling rate between 60% to 70% is known as Honjozo 本醸造,
- Milling rate of 60% or less is known as Ginjo 吟醸,
- Milling rate 50% or less is known as Daiginjo 大吟醸.
These classifications are usually indicated on the front label of the bottle.
(the photo above is an example of Junmai Daiginjo classification indicated on the front label of a bottle.)What does classifications tell us about a sake?
The classifications and their respective milling rates can help you understand a sake’s character. For example, a sake with a lower milling rate like a Junmai Daiginjo and Daiginjo are usually aromatic and smooth in texture, they also tend to be expensive because more rice is needed to produce the same volume of sake compared to Junmai Ginjo or Ginjo. For higher milling rates such as Junmai and Honjozo, they are usually are richer in taste and umami forward.
So the next time when you are order sake, go ahead and take a look at their classifications to help you out. To make ordering sake easier, check out The 4 Sake Types and get helpful tips of the types of sake and how to pair them with food!
Products with different sake classes by the same brewery:
-Hakurakusei Junmai Daiginjo 伯楽星 純米大吟醸 720ml
Milling rate: 40%
-Hakurakusei Junmai Ginjo 伯楽星 純米吟醸 720ml
Milling rate: 55%
-Hakurakusei Tokubetsu Junmai 伯楽星 特別純米 720ml
Milling rate: 60%
-Daimon 45 Junmai Daiginjo 大門 45 純米大吟醸 300ml
-Daimon 55 Junmai Ginjo 55 純米吟醸 300ml