Sake Glossary

A complete glossary to help you understand Sake words.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

 Acidity
 Level of acidic taste of Sake.
Alcohol Percentage
Percentage of alcohol contained in Sake per volume. Usually similar to wine, around 15% – 16% for most sake, 8%-10% for most fruit sake (Umeshu, etc).
Amakuchi
Japanese term describing sweet tast in Sake.
Amazake
Literally this means “sweet sake”. It is a creamy and white sweet beverage, with little to no alcohol content. Usually served by Shinto shrines around new year's day.
Arabashiri
Literally this means "first run" or "rough run". The sake mesh is put in a Yabuta or Fune for pressing in order to separate solid unfermented rice from the liquid sake. Initially a certain amount runs though the mesh by force of gravity alone before any pressure is applied, this is called Arabashiri.
Aruten
Sake with the addition of Brewer’s Alcohol, therefore not part of the Junmaishu category.
Aspergillus Oryzae
Scientific name for Koji mold used for Sake brewing.
Atsukan
Sake served very hot, usually around 50°C.

B

Brewer’s Alcohol
A tasteless distilled alcohol sometimes added to Sake.
Usually in premium Sake, brewer's alcohol is added in small quantity to enhance the aroma, taste and texture f Sake, not to increase noticeably the overall alcohol percentage. In the case of lower grade futushu, or table sake, it can be added in larger quantities to increase yields.

D

Daiginjo
Classification name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 50% of it’s original size as well as water, yeast, koji and the addition of some distilled brewers alcohol. Daiginjo is considered a super premium sake. Also called “Daiginjo-shu” . The “shu” suffix means ‘alcohol’ in Japanese.
Browse all Daiginjo Sakes in sakecompany Daiginjo session
Doburoku
A cloudy and chunky home brewed style of sake. Rough, rustic and home made.

F

Fukurozuri
This is a way of separating the rice solids from the sake. The finished sake mash is placed in bags and hung up which allows the sake to literally drip out with the bags holding the rice solids behind. No pressure is applied. This method creates an elegant and expensive sake known as Shizuku.
Fune
A large box made of wood or metal used to press bags filled with sake mash. The downward pressure of the Fune forces the sake out and the bags hold back the rice solids. In Japanese “fune”” literally means boat and this is a nod to the boat-like shape of the box.
Futsu-shu
Sake that does not qualify as a premium “special designation sake.” It literally means “regular sake” but could also be called “table sake”. About 80% of all sake made in Japan is considered futusu-shu.

G

Genshu
Undiluted Sake. Hot off the presses, sake can be as high as 20% alcohol. Brewmasters usually add pure water to dilute the strength down to 15-16%. Genshu skips this step and give you full-on high octane sake. It’s strong! Also referred to as “cask strength” sake, it’s sometimes served on the rocks.
Browse all Genshu Sakes in sakecompany.com site.
Ginjo
Classification name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 60% of it’s original size as well as water, yeast, koji and the addition of some distilled brewers alcohol. Ginjo is considered a premium sake. Also called “Ginjo-shu”. The “shu” suffix means ‘alcohol’ in Japanese.
Go
A go is a unit of measure equal to 180ml. Often in Japan, sake is ordered in a restaurant by the “go”. The go is also the amount that will fit inside a standard masu box.
Guinomi
A style of sake cup.

H

Hanabie
A term for sake temperature of around 10 °C. Normally translated as ‘Blooming Spring Flower’ or ‘Flower chilled’.
Happo-shu
This is a general term meaning sparkling sake.
Browse all Happo-shu Sparkling Sakes in sakecompany.com
Hatsuzoe
In the sake production process, hatsuzoe is the first addition of rice, water and koji to kick off the production of the main mash/moromi.
Hiire
Pasteurization. The process of heating sake quickly to roughly 65°C. This heating makes sake shelf stable by killing of any bacteria, yeast or enzymes still active.
Hinatakan
A term for sake temperature of around 30°C. It is usually translated as ‘Sunbathing in Summer’ or ‘Out in the sun’.
Hirezake
This means “fin sake”. It’s a unique style of serving warm sake where they soak a grilled blowfish fin directly in the cup to flavor the sake.
Hitohadakan
A term for sake temperature of around 35°C. It is usually translated as ‘body temperature’ or ‘as warm as a person’s skin’.
Hiyaoroshi
This is a type of once-pasteurized sake that is typically available in the Autumn. It has been pasteurized only once before cellaring over the summer, but not a second time before bottling and shipping out in the fall season. this is also known as “namazume”. Sometimes referred to as a “fall nama”
Honjozo
Classification name for sake made from water, yeast, koji and rice milled down to at least 70% of it’s original size as well as the addition of some distilled brewers alcohol.

I

Ichigo
A common single serving size of sake. equal to 180 ml.
Isshobin
The large 1.8 liter bottle of sake.
Izakaya
A relaxed and casual Japanese sake pub that sells small appetizers to pair with sake.

J

Jizake
This could be considered sake from a local small or artisanal producer.
Jokan
A term for sake temperature of around 45°C. It is often translated as ‘slightly hot’.
Jozo
A term that refers to the brewing process.
Jozo Arukoru
Japanese term for Brewer’s Alcohol.
Junmai
Classification name for sake made using only Rice, water, yeast and Koji – no additives or added alcohol. There is no minimum rice milling requirement for Junmai grade sake. Also called “Junmai-shu”. The “shu” suffix means ‘alcohol’ in Japanese.
Browse all Junmai Sakes in sakecompany.com
Junmai Daiginjo
Classification name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 50% of it’s original size. Also this sake is made using only Rice, water, yeast and Koji – no additives or added alcohol. Junmai Daiginjo is considered super premium sake. Also called “Junmai Daiginjo-shu”. The “shu” suffix means ‘alcohol’ in Japanese.
Browse all Junmai Daiginjo Sakes sakecompany.com
Junmai Ginjo
Classification name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 60% of it’s original size. Also this sake is made using only Rice, water, yeast and Koji – no additives or added alcohol. Junmai Ginjo is considered premium sake. Also called “Junmai Ginjo-shu”. The “shu” suffix means ‘alcohol’ in Japanese.
Browse all Junmai Ginjo Sakes in sakecompany.com

K

Kanpai
Japanese word for “Cheers!”. It literally means “empty cup”.
Karakuchi
A word to describe sake that is dry in flavor.
Kasu
The pressed rice solids or “lees” left over when sake is separated from the main mash after brewing.
Kobo
Japanese word for Yeast. In the making of sake, Yeast converts the available sugars into alcohol.
Kijoshu
A complex sake that is made by replacing some of the water used in brewing with sake.
Kikizake
Sake Tasting Event. 
Follow our Kikizake courses and events.
Kikizakeshi
Japanese term for Sake Sommelier.
Kimoto
Kimoto describes a style of sake that uses the original yeast starter method. The yeast starter for Kimoto sake is rhythmically mixed using long paddles to combine yeast, water rice and koji into a starter mash that naturally promotes lactic acid development. Known for a robust and sometimes funky flavors.
Browse all Kimoto Sakes in sakecompany.com
Koji
Koji is an ingredient in sake production. It is a molded Rice that has been inoculated with Koji-kin mold
Koji-kin
A mold whose scientific name is Aspergillus Oryzae. This is the name for the mold that is used to create koji rice
Koku
A Koku is a unit of measure of the production output of a sake brewery. One Koku is equal to 180 liters of sake or one hundred isshobin sake bottles.
Koshu
Aged sake.
Browse all Koshu Sakes in sakecompany.com
Kura
Sake Brewery.
Kurabito
Sake Brewery Worker.
Kuramoto
President of the Sake Brewery.

M

Masu
Square box used as a sake cup. Traditionally made from Cedar, but also now found in plastic. This square shape was originally used as a measure of rice.
Moromi
Main fermenting mash consisting of yeast starter, koji, steamed rice and water.
Moto
The yeast starter, also known as shubo.
Mushimai
The step of rice steaming in the sake production process.
Muroka
Sake that skips the step of charcoal filtering.

N

Nakazoe
On the third day of brewing the main mash, this is the addition of koji, rice and water.
Namachozo
This is a type of sake that is cellared without being pasteurized, but does receive pasteurization before being bottled.
Namazake
Nama is unpasteurized sake. Also referred to as “Nama Sake” or simply “Nama”.
Namazume
This is a type of sake that is pasteurized only once before cellaring but not a second time before bottling and shipping.
Nigorizake
Also called “Nigori Sake” or simply “Nigori”, it is sake that is only coarsely filtered of rice solids after brewing. These tiny bits of the rice are left in giving this sake a creamy and milky appearance. Be sure to gently shake up a nigori before you pour. Sometimes also called “cloudy” sake.
Nihonshu
In the west, what we understand as “sake” (alcohol fermented from rice) is known as “Nihonshu” in Japan. It literally means Japanese Alcohol. In Japan, the word “Sake” means Alcohol in general, not just alcohol fermented from rice.
Nihonshu no Hi
October 1st is considered Sake Day or “Nihonshu no Hi”
Nihonshudo
A scale of measurement of the “specific gravity” of sake. higher positive numbers indicate generally drier sake, lower negative numbers represent generally sweeter sake. In English, we call this the SMV or “Sake Meter Value”.
Nuka
When sake rice is milled, it gives off Nuka powder or rice flour. This powder is often collected and re-sold by the sake brewery.
Nurukan
A term for sake temperature of around 40°C. It is usually translated as ‘gently warmed’.

O

Ochoko
Small ceramic sake cup.

P

Pasteurization
Pasteurization is the process of quickly heating sake to a high temperature to kill off all bacteria, yeast and enzymatic action to make sake shelf stable without refrigeration.
Prefecture
The country of japan is broken down into 47 locally governed states called Prefectures.

R

Reishu
Reishu is a term for sake served cold or chilled. If you want to ensure you get chilled sake in Japan (vs. heated sake) ask for Reishu.

S

Sakagura
Sakagura is a term to denote a sake brewery.
Sakamai
Sakamai is a general term for rice grown expressly for making sake.
Sakazuki
Sakazuki is a type of shallow footed sake cup often red in color.
Sake
“Sake” means Alcohol in Japanese. Depending on context, it can be pronounced either as “shu” or “sake”. What we refer to as “sake” in English, the Japanese call “nihonshu” meaning Japanese Alcohol (alcohol fermented from rice).
Sake Meter Value (SMV)
A scale that indicates the relative sweetness or dryness of a sake. Positive number are Dryer, negative numbers are sweeter. Also referred to as “nihonshu-do”.
San Dan Jikomi
This term referrers to the Japanese three step sake brewing method. Over four days, three additions of rice, water and koji are made to the main mash.
Sando
Sando is the level of acidity is sake.
Seimai
Seimai referrers to the step of rice polishing or rice milling during sake production. The goal of Seimai is to remove the outer layers and expose the starch in the core of each rice grain
Seimaibuai
Also known as Rice Milling Percentage. Indicates the percentage of the rice grain remaining after milling away the outer layers of each rice grain prior to brewing.
Seishu
The legal name for sake in Japanese.
Senmai
Senmai is the rice washing step of sake brewing. After milling, the rice must be washed to remove the rice powder.
Shibori
Shibori is the pressing stage of sake production. The sake mash is pressed to separate the rice solids from the alcohol.
Shiboritate
Shiboritate is freshly pressed sake. The sake is not aged or cellared, but shipped directly after pressing.
Shinpaku
This is the starchy center of each sake rice grain. In Japanese it’s called the “white heart”.
Shinseki
This is the rice soaking step of the sake production process.
Shizuku
Sometimes called “drip sake” this is a type of sake that does not undergo a typical pressing to separate the sake lees from the alcohol. The mash is hung up in bags and suspended over a vat. The sake drips out by the force of gravity alone. This type of sake is usually expensive and rare.
Shubo
The yeast starter. Also known as Moto.
Shuzo
Indicates sake brewing or Brewery. Breweries often add this word to their company name.
Sokujo
This is the modern or “fast” yeast starter method. Lactic acid is added directly to the yeast starter allowing the process to finish in 2 weeks vs. 4 weeks with the Kimoto or Yamahai methods, which develop lactic acid naturally.
Suzubie
A term for sake temperature of around 15°C. I’ve heard it translated as ‘lightly chilled’

T

Tanrei Karakuchi
A way to describe sake that is crisp and dry.
Taru
A wooden cask for storing sake, a barrel
Taruzake
Sake that has been stored or aged for a period of time in a cedar caks, so that the woody flavor of the keg is imparted to the sake.
Tobin
A rounded glass bottle used to hold sake. It holds one hundred 180ml servings or 18 liters.
Tobikirikan
A term for sake temperature of around 55 °C. Extremely hot sake.
Toji
Head or Master Sake Brewer. Team leader of all Kurabito at a given brewery.
Tokkuri
Small carafe for serving and heating sake. Traditionally made from ceramic.
Tokubetsu
Tokubetsu means “special”. It is a designation that a special production process was applied to a Junmai or Honjozo grade sake. Usually, it means that a lower milling rate than required was used.
Tomezoe
This is the third addition of rice, water and koji to the main mash.

U

Umami
Taste profile sometimes identified in sake. Often translated as savory.
Umeshu
“Plum Sake”. Made by soaking whole plums in vats of sake. Usually Sweet. Browse all Umeshu in sakecompany.com

Y

Yamadanishiki
Often called the “king of sake rice”, this strain of sakamai is highly prized for it’s properties that make it well suited for making premium sake. Browse sakes in the Urban Sake Directory using Yamadanishiki sake rice
Yamahai
Yamahai is a yeast starter method that was developed after Kimoto, but before Sokujo. Yamahai allows for natural lactic acid production, but does away with the need for “Yamaoroshi” or the labor intensive macerating/mashing of the yeast starter using long wooden poles as done for centuries in the kimoto method. Yamahai flavor profiles tend to be full bodied and funky. See all Yamahai Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.
Yeast
Yeast is the micro organism that is essential for the creation of fermented alcohol. Yeast eats any available sugars and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. The yeast also imparts flavors and esthers to the sake. There are various strains of yeast that give off different tastes and aromas.
Yongobin
A standard sake bottle containing 720ml or four “go” 180ml servings.
Yukibie
A term for sake temperature of around 5°C. Sake that is “snow chilled” or icy cold.
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