About Sake

Sake 101

Sake 101

According to Liquor Tax Law, sake refers to ‘brewed and filtered ingredients made from rice, rice malt, and water’.

Sake Ingredients
Rice (rice suited for sake brewing)
Currently in Japan, more than 300 varieties of rice are cultivated. Refined sake is mostly made from rice cultivated in Japan. Certain types of rice that have qualities ideal for brewing refined sake and are designated by agricultural rules and regulations and called ‘rice suited for sake brewing’ or ‘sake rice’. Our company uses three brands of sake rice: Koshitanrei, Gohyakumangoku, and Takanenishiki.

Nearly 80% of sake is water, and since it takes about 20~30 times the amount of water in a bottle of sake to create just that one bottle, water is considered one of the most important ingredients in the process. Almost all water used in the production of Niigata sake is soft water with a low minerals content. This is considered to be the best water for Tanrei sake brewing.

Brewer’s alcohol
Fermented and distilled from sugarcane molasses and various grains, brewer’s alcohol is used to adjust the aroma and flavor of sake.

Rice Malt
This is rice that is fermented using rice malt bacteria known as ‘kojikin’. The enzymes produced from kojikin break down the rice into starch and glucose which provides food for the yeast.

Yeast Mash
This is mash consisting of rice, rice malt, and water, populated with yeast. By using superior yeast, which is necessary for the brewing process, the fermentation of safe alcohol for refined sake is achieved.

Polished Rice Ratio
This is an index that indicates how much rice must be polished in the rice polishing process.

Sake Proof (the taste of sake)
This is an index that indicates the specific gravity of sake. The sugar content of sake increases as the indicator approaches (+), it decreases as the indicator approaches (-).

This is an index that indicates the acidity of sake. As the acidity increases the sake tastes thicker. Also, since the sweet flavor of the sake is hidden, a higher acidity makes for a KARAKUCHI flavor.

Amino Acidity
This is an index that indicates the amino acid level of the sake. A sake with high levels of amino acid boasts a rich umami flavor. Low levels of amino acid make for a lighter tasting sake.

Types of Sake

Hutsu-shu (Ordinary/Regular) type sake
Seishu that does not correspond to specific class name sake according to Liquor Tax Laws. With a reasonable price, this sake is widely available and used for home and restaurant consumption.

<Specific Class Name Sake>

Junmai-type sake (Specific Class Name Sake)
Sake made only from rice and rice malt. Many of these sake have a plump umami flavor to them.

Honjozo-type sake (Specific Class Name Sake)
Sake made from rice, rice malt, and brewer’s alcohol. The polished rice ratio of this sake is less than 70%, and the amount of brewer’s alcohol used in preparation is less than 10% of the weight of the polish riced used.

Ginjo-type sake (Specific Class Name Sake)
Sake made from rice, rice malt, and brewer’s alcohol, in which the polished rice ratio is less than 60%. Rice is polished and then slowly brewed at a low temperature.Thisprocess is sometimes referred to as ‘ginjo-zukuri’.

Dai Ginjo-type sake (Specific Class Name Sake)
This sake is made in the same way as Ginjo sake except that the polished rice ratio is further reduced to be less than 50%.



Nama-type (Draft type) sake
Seishu is usually pasteurized twice before shipment (the pasteurization process is also referred to as ‘hiire’). However, seishu that doesn’t undergo the hiire process is called ‘namazake’ or Nama-type. Generally, it has a fresher taste because it has not undergone the pasteurization process. We recommend that you chill this sake before drinking.

Genshu-type sake
This sake is made by not adding water to the product after it is distilled.

Shinshu-type sake
This is sake produced in the current year. It is characterized by a fresh flavor and aroma.

Koshu-type (Aged-type) sake
Sake aged 1 year or more. It is characterized by a mature aroma and a full flavor.

Types of Rice

First produced in 1957 at the Niigata Agricultural Laboratory by combining the mother element ‘Kikusui’, and the father element ‘Shin-200’, this rice is Niigata’s representative sake-making rice. It was named in honor of Niigata’s annual rice harvest surpassing 5,000,000 ‘koku’ (1 koku is equivalent to 180.39 liters) of rice in the same year of its production. Rice malt is easy to make using this brand and the fermenting mash that is produced does not dissolve too much. This brand of rice is ideal for making crisp and light seishu.

This is an ideal brand of rice for making sake that was produced in the Nagano Agricultural Laboratory by combining ‘Hokuriku 12’ as a mother element and ‘Tohoku 25’ as a father element. As sake-making rice, it has a relatively small grain and the manifestation of shinpaku varies to some extent, but it has an established reputation for producing full-bodied sake.

This is an ideal brand of rice for making sake that was produced by combining ‘Yamadanishiki’ as a mother element and ‘Gohyakumangoku’ as a father element. This rice was developed as a result of 15 years of research into how to combine the full flavor of ‘Yamadanishiki’ with the crisp aftertaste of ‘Gohyakumangoku’ under the cooperation of the Niigata Agricultural Research Institute Crop Research Center, the Niigata Prefectural Brewer’s Testing Facility, and the Niigata Prefectural Brewer’s Association.

Types of Yeast

<Brewing Society of Japan Association Yeast>

K7: Bubbling yeast. This yeast produces a splendid aroma and is ideal for many kinds of Ginjo and Hutsu-type sake brewing.

K701: Non-bubbling yeast. Undergoing a long term slow-type mashing process, this yeast has a low acidity and is ideal for special class name seishu with a high-grade Ginjo aroma.

K1401: Non-bubbling yeast. Undergoing a long term slow-type mashing process, this yeast has a low acidity and is ideal for special class name seishu with a high-grade Ginjo aroma.

K1801: Non-bubbling yeast. High ester yeast. It is characterized by a full flavor and splendid aromas.


<Niigata Brewer’s Test Facility>

G9NF: Non-bubbling yeast. Splendid aromas and low acidity and superb low temperature fermentation characterize this yeast.

TR8: Bubbling yeast. Low in acidity and amino acidity, a reserved yet high class aroma along with the perfect combination of sweetness and acidity characterize this yeast.


<Meirishurui Co., Ltd.>

M310: Non-bubbling yeast. This yeast is characterized by a superb ethyl caproate aroma, low acidity, and its excellent fermentation.

Brewing Process

The Seishu Kirinzan Brewing Process

Rice Polishing
First we polish raw rice and remove any extra components.
Rice polishing
unpolished sake rice
polished sake rice
Rice Rinsing
Next we rinse the extra rice bran from the polished rice.
Rice Rinsing
Rice Steaming
Raw rice will not ferment on its own, so it is steamed after rinsing.
Rice Steaming
Main Preparation
Mixing the finished yeast mash, rice malt, steamed rice, and water in a single tank is called ‘main preparation’. The resulting blend is called ‘moromi’. Saccharification and fermentation occurs thanks to the rice malt in the moromi, and alcohol is produced by the yeast.
Main Preparation
Yeast Mash
Water, steamed rice, and yeast are added to the rice malt to multiply the pure yeast creating a substance called yeast mash. Lactic acid bacteria are added to prevent the growth of any unwanted bacteria.
Yeast Mash
Rice Malt Production
Aspergillus oryzae is sprinkled into the steamed rice and allowed to reproduce to make rice malt. The rice malt will cause the steamed rice to saccharify and aid in alcohol fermentation.
Rice Malt Production
Joso (Upper Cistern)
Distilling the moromi after fermentation is complete is called ‘joso’. The leftovers from this process are called ‘sakanuka’
Joso (Upper Cistern)
The sake is pasteurized in order to kill bacteria and neutralize yeast elements as well as to stabilize quality during storage.
The sake is stored and matured.
Sake that forgoes the pasteurization process is called ‘namazake’.
The sake is bottled, labeled, and waits for shipment.
Final Preparation
Final preparation is the process of conditioning the sake by mixing it a number of times in order to guarantee that the same quality is achieved with each shipment.