How to Choose Sake: 3 Factors to Remember

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If you’re new to the world of sake, you might feel overwhelmed by the variety and different grades. But fret not, we’re here to make things easy for you with three simple questions to ask yourself when you’re shopping for a bottle:

  1. Do you like fruity or non-fruity aromas?
  2. Do you like full-bodied or light-bodied wine?
  3. Do you like long aftertaste or short aftertaste?

Fruity Aroma (Also known as Ginjo-ka)

Do you prefer Sake that has a fruity aroma such as apple, banana, or any other fruit? When it comes to Sake, this fruity aroma is known as ‘Ginjo-ka’ (吟醸香) and is often found in Ginjo-type sake, which has had at least 40% of the rice grains polished away, resulting in a light, fruity flavour.

In contrast, the aroma of Junmai-type (純米) Sake is typically that of steamed rice or a lack of fruitiness as it does not have a strict polishing rate. Junmai sake also means that no distilled alcohol was used in the brewing process. Sake made from unpolished rice or with a lower polishing rate has a denser flavour and a distinct rice aroma.

Body (Similar to wine tasting)

Next, do you prefer full-bodied or light-bodied wine? Similarly, Sake that is full-bodied has higher alcohol content and is full of umami flavour. Light-bodied sake is easier to drink with its mild and light flavours.

Full-bodied Sake includes:

  • Cloudy Sake (Nigori)
  • Junmai-type Sake
  • Daiginjo-type Sake
  • Unfiltered Sake type (Muroka)
  • Unpasteurized Undiluted Sake type (Nama Genshu)
  • Natural Lactic Acid type (Kimoto, Yamahai)

Light-bodied Sake includes:

  • Added Alcohol type like Honjozo
  • Ginjo-type sake


Finally, do you prefer a long or a short aftertaste? Some sake lingers in your mouth after you drink it, leaving aroma and taste. For sake with a short aftertaste, it will have little to no aftertaste. Generally, Junmai types have a longer aftertaste and the added alcohol types such as Honjozo (本醸造) have a shorter aftertaste.

There are of course exceptions but as a general guideline, this can be useful when you buy sake for the first time.

The best thing about Sake is that it is not picky when it comes to food. It complements a variety of dishes, including sushi, grilled meat, and steamboat.

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