Noaksey’s Introduction of Sake

So to get started this is a quick guide on Sake

What exactly is Sake?

The word “Sake” literally means alcoholic beverage in Japan, if you wanted to order what we would call Sake in Japan you would need to order “Nihon-Shu” (Japanese Alcohol). For the propose of simplicity I will refer to “Nihon-shu” as “Sake” for the duration of this guide.

What is Sake made from?

Well to make Sake you need only four ingredients

  1. Rice*
  2. Water
  3. Koji**
  4. Yeast


One of the mostly confused parts of this ingredients list is the understanding of what the rice part actually is or needs to be. Most people like myself believed that any Japanese rice must be fine, but this isn’t the case, most of the rice you get when making Japanese dishes like sushi for instance will not work well when you use it to make Sake.

So most sake breweries will seek out special sake rices some will even grow the rice themselves.


Another item on this list you might want to know about is Koji. Koji is a fungus and a fermentation culture, called Aspergillus oryzae. This naturally occurring culture is particularly prevalent in Japan, where it is known as koji-kin, which explains why so many Japanese foods have been developed over the centuries using it. It is used to make popular foods like soya sauce, miso, mirin and most importantly sake.


Sake Category’s

The difference in sake really amounts from the different ways these consist of

(1) how “polished” (milled) the rice grains used to make the sake are

(2) whether a tiny amount of “brewers alcohol” (distilled alcohol) has been added to pronounce the sake’s characteristics (increase fragrance, flavour, etc.)

The first classification results in the three types of sake: daiginjo, ginjo and honjozo;

the second, the word junmai indicates that no alcohol has been added (incidentally, this does not increase the alcohol %).

The diagram below explains the classifications further;

Thanks to Tengu Sake

When to drink sake?

“Nihonshu wa ryori wo erabanai,”  roughtly translated as “Sake doesn’t get in fights with food”.

in other words, you can drink sake with almost everything, Some are great as an aperitif or during a meal or even with a dessert. Unlike wine were the wrong wine can ruin a meal, most Sake can be enjoyed with whatever when ever, granted some work better with certain meals but it wouldn’t flat out ruin a meal.

The key factors:

  • Purity & Cleanness
  • Textures
  • Ginjo aromas
  • Umami

Ginjo Aromas


Umami, means in simple terms, a savory taste, and is considered one of the five basic tastes (together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty).

A loanword from the Japanese (うま味?), umami can be translated as “pleasant savory taste”.It was derived from umai (うまい) meaning “delicious” and mi (味) meaning “taste”. The kanji 旨味 are used for a more general sense of a food as delicious.

The Poem of Sake Temperatures

The last thing to consider when drinking sake is exactly how to drink it, it is a common misconception that a sake is best hot. In fact there is a large range of temperatures you can enjoy sake and will bring the flavors and smells out best at, click to see the original.


So sake is more about the chemistry of the drinking and enjoyment. If you have any questions comment and I’ll add these answers to this guide.

Noaksey’s Introduction of Sake
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