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Glossary of Sake Terms

Bijinshu - "Beautiful Girl." This "improvement" of the sake making process involved only using young virgin girls to chew the rice in order to start fermentation.

Bodai Moto - "Monk's sake." A term used for the time period when temple-brewed sake was at its peak.

Chotei no sake - "Court produced sake." A reference to the time period around 689 AD where the imperial court began to brew sake for consumption. Many technical advances came from this time period as the court's endless resources allowed for extensive research into the art of brewing.

Dai Ginjo - A sake with added distilled alcohol and a milling rate of at least 50%, meaning that only 50% remains after being polished.

Futsushu - Commonly known as "table sake," futsushu typically means any non-premium brew.

Genshu - Normally brewers will dilute sake to bring its natural alcohol percentage of 18-20% down to a more manageable 14-6%. The term Genshu is used to label sakes that have not gone through this dilution process.

Ginjo - A sake with added distilled alcohol and a milling rate of at least 40%, meaning 60% remains after the process.

Honjozo - A category of sake with a milling rate of at least 30%. This type of sake also includes added brewers alcohol to the mix.

Izakaya - A Japanese drinking restaurant that offers traditional fare accompanied with sake. Typically popular with the business crowd seeking that "much needed post-work drink."

Jizake - Roughly translated into "Local sake." Equivalent, and as overused, as the term "micro-brewery" in the United States.

Junmai Dai Ginjo - A category of sake that has a milling rate at least 50% for each rice grain, meaning that only 50% of the exterior grain remains.

Junmai Ginjo - A category of sake that has a milling rate of at least 40% for each rice grain, meaning that only 60% of the exterior grain remains.

Junmai - A category of sake that has a milling rate of 30% for each rice grain, meaning that 70% of the exterior grain remains.

Kanpai - Translated into "Empty Cup!" or "Cheers!" A very important word indeed.

Kan-zukuri - The term used for the winter brewing season.

Kimoto - A method of creating a "moto" or yeast starter by following the traditional brewing steps. Still used today for certain brews.

Koji - Blanket term used for the mold culture that is used in the fermentation process.

Kuchikama no Sake - A rudimentary form of sake brewing roughly translated to "mouth brewed sake." One of the first methods of initiating the fermentation process in rice was to use the enzymes commonly found in the mouth.

Kura - Simply means a sake brewery. Also known as a sakagura.

Kurabito - One who works within a sake brewery.

Masu - A traditional square wooden box used to drink sake. Now these are typically reserved for ceremonial purposes and no longer the preferred receptacle for drinking sake.

Minzoku no Sake - A reference to the communal period when sake making involved an entire village.

Moromi - "The Main Mash." A vital step in the brewing process of sake where all the ingredients are added together and the fermentation begins.

Moto - A way to "jump start" the fermentation process. The moto is a combination of yeast, rice, water, and lactic acid.

Nama - Unpasteurized sake that contains live yeast cells and bacteria from the brewing process. These types must be refrigerated and like most "live" products, they are best consumed fresh.

Nigori - Sake that is unfiltered. Typically cloudy with a sediment that settles at the bottom of the bottle.

Nihonshu - "Wine of Japan." The official name for what the Western world calls "sake."

Nihonshudo - Also referred to as the Sake Meter Value (SMV), which is the to index the sweet and dry attributes of each brew. The values are determined via a Hydrometer that measures the density of the fluid and are given a negative or positive number based on the density of the sake. The larger the positive number, the drier the sake; the larger the negative number, the sweeter the sake. A "0" value represents a sake that is between semi-sweet and semi-dry. SMVs are accepted by most breweries and provide the consumer a quick method of determining the taste profile of the brew.

Sakaya no Sake - The formal term for a brewery.

Sakaya - A wide ranging term that can be used to describe either a shop that sells sake OR a brewery.

Seishu - The legal term for Nihonshu.

Shizuku - A time consuming method of pressing sake that involved hanging the moromi in cloth bags and allowing gravity to separate the fluid from the rest of the mash. Results in very soft and refined brews.

Shochu - A Japanese distilled beverage similar to vodka made from potatoes, rice, corn and a variety of other sources. Usually high in alcohol content and considered a hard alcohol.

SMV - The Sake Meter Value. Also known as "Nihonshudo," this value is a negative or positive number based on the density of the sake. The larger the positive number, the drier the sake. The larger the negative value, the sweeter it is. A 0 value represents a sake that is between semi-sweet and semi-dry. SMV's are accepted by most breweries and provide the consumer a quick method of determining the taste profile of the brew.

Sparkling Sake - A lightly carbonated version of sake, normally sold in smaller 300ml bottles.

Terrior - A French term used mostly when talking about wine. It means the special characteristics of the soil, water, and climate in a given area that affects the taste of the wine.

Toji - The master brewer at any given kura.

Tokubetsu - A "special" designation for either Junmai or Honjozo brews.

Yamahai - An updated method of the Kimoto process that creates yeast starters for brewing.


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