Sake Glossary

Below is a handy Glossary to help you decode any Japanese Sake Jargon that has you dazed and confused. Click on the speaker icon to hear pronunciations. Get hip to that Sake lingo! WORD!

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Acidity

Measure of acidic content in sake.
Browse Sakes by Acidity in the Urban Sake Directory.


Alcohol
Percentage

A measure of how much alcohol is contained in sake expressed as a percentage of total volume. Most commonly 15% – 16%. However some styles such as undiluted Genshu can be up to 21%.
Browse sakes by Alcohol Percentage in the Urban Sake Directory.


Amakuchi

Word to describe sweet flavor in Sake


Amazake

Literally translated, amazake means “sweet sake”. It is a thick, white sweet beverage often served by Shinto shrines around new years. It has little to no alcohol content.


Arabashiri

When the sake mash is set up in a Yabuta or Fune for pressing (to separate unfermented rice solids from alcohol), there is a certain amount that runs though the mesh by force of gravity alone before any pressure is applied. this sake is known as “arabashiri and this translates to “first run” or “rough run”.


Aruten

Sake that has been fortified with Brewer’s Alcohol. Aruten is sake that is not Junmaishu


Aspergillus
Oryzae

Scientific name for Koji mold.


Atsukan

Very hot sake. Generally served around 122°F (50°C).


Brewer’s Alcohol

A neutral distilled spirit added to sake. In the case of premium sake, brewer’s alcohol is added in small quantities to enhance the aroma, taste and texture of sake, not to increase the overall alcohol percentage. In the case of inexpensive futushu or table sake, brewer’s alcohol can be added in larger quantities to increase yields. Brewer’s Alchohol is called Jozo Arukoru in Japanese.


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 the Urban Sake Directory.


Doburoku

A cloudy and chunky home brewed style of sake. Rough, rustic and home made.


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.
See all Futsuhsu Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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.
See all Genshu Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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” (吟醸酒). The “shu” suffix means ‘alcohol’ in Japanese.
See all Ginjo Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


Go
合

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.


Hanabie

A term for sake temperature of around 51 °F (10 °C). I’ve heard it translated as ‘Blooming Spring Flower’ or ‘Flower chilled’.


Happo-shu

This is a general term meaning sparkling sake.
See all Happo-shu Sparkling Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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 150°F. This heating makes sake shelf stable by killing of any bacteria, yeast or enzymes still active.


Hinatakan

A term for sake temperature of around 86°F (30°C). I’ve heard it 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 95°F (35°C). I’ve heard it 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.
See all Honjozo Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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.


Jizake

This could be considered sake from a local small or artisanal producer.


Jokan

A term for sake temperature of around 113°F (45°C). I’ve heard it 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” (純米酒). The “shu” suffix means ‘alcohol’ in Japanese.
See all Junmai Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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.
See all Junmai Daiginjo Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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.
View all Junmai Ginjo Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory


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.
View all Kijoshu Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory


Kikizake

Sake Tasting Event.


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 the Urban Sake Directory.


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 the Urban Sake Directory.


Kura

Sake Brewery.


Kurabito

Sake Brewery Worker.


Kuramoto

President of the Sake Brewery.


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.
View all Muroka Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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.
View all Namachozo Sake in the Urban Sake Directory.


Namazake

Nama is unpasteurized sake. Also referred to as “Nama Sake” or simply “Nama”.
View all Nama Sake in the Urban Sake Directory.


Namazume

This is a type of sake that is pasteurized only once before cellaring but not a second time before bottling and shipping. Hiyaoroshi is a type of Namazume Sake.


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.
View all Nigori Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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 104°F (40°C). I’ve heard it translated as ‘gently warmed’.


Ochoko

Small ceramic sake cup.


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. Browse Sakes the Urban Sake Directory by Prefecture


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.


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

The Japanese character of sake: “é…’” 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
listen

Also known as Rice Milling Percentage. Indicates the precentage 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
搾り

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 59°F (15°C). I’ve heard it translated as ‘lightly chilled’


Tanrei Karakuchi

A way to describe sake that is crisp and dry.


Taru

A wooden cask for storing sake.


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.
View all Taru Sakes in the Urban Sake Directory.


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 131 °F (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.


Umami

Taste profile sometimes identified in sake. Often translated as savory. Think A1 steak Sauce.


Umeshu

“Plum Sake”. Made by soaking whole plums in vats of sake. Usually Sweet.
Browse all Umeshu in the Urban Sake Directory.


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 41 °F (5 °C). Sake that is “snow chilled” or icy cold.

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