Sake Glossary

In this glossary, we have compiled a list of terms relating to the world of sake. It is not exhaustive and is expected to be completed over time and your suggestions, but it gathers useful information, including to help you choose a sake.


Sweet sake.


Scale defining the amino acid content of sake and thus its umami.


A sake for which distilled alcohol has been added to the fermentation tanks. This is the opposite of Junmaï, but unlike Junmaï, the term "aruten" is not used in the characterization of sake, it is implied.


Sake tasting temperature at 50°C


Method of pasteurization where sake is pasteurized after bottling. It is increasingly used by breweries for their high-end sakes.


Or Mizumoto, is a method older than the Kimoto method and consisting of soaking uncooked rice in water to allow the lactic acid concentration to rise naturally and thus protect the fermentation from bacterial contamination.

Choko Small sake bowl.
Daïginjo Sake category for which rice is polished to a minimum of 50% and special yeasts are used. Daiginjo means "great Ginjo", it is the emblematic sake of every brewery and is produced with the utmost attention.

Unfiltered sake. A term often used for "homemade" sake. From a regulatory point of view, this is not a nihonshu because the doburoku has not gone through the mandatory filtration stage.


When tasting sake, the first flavors of sake when put in the mouth.


Or Fukurozuri, a filtration method consisting in placing the contents of fermentation tanks in canvas bags and then hanging them over a container to collect sake.

Funeshibori A filtration method consisting in placing the contents of fermentation tanks in canvas bags before pressing them into a wooden press.
Futsuu Table sake, or ordinary sake, for which the addition of alcohol and different flavor compounds (lactic acid for example) are allowed.
Genmaï Rice, with its brown outer layer.
Genshu Sake made without adding spring water at the end of fermentation. Whole flavors and often a higher than average alcohol level.
Ginjo Sake made with at least 60% polished rice and special yeasts. Ginjo literally means "watching the process".
Go Volume unit equal to 18cl.
Goku Or Koku, is the traditional unit for expressing the production volumes of sake from a brewery. A Goku corresponds to 180l.
Guinomi Small sake bowl literally meaning "drink at once".

Sake tasting temperature of 10°C - temperature of a cool spring day at the time of hanami.

Happo Or Happoshu is a sparkling sake and a relatively rare category. Some Happoshu received an addition of gas, others continue a second fermentation directly in the bottle, some are developed using techniques inspired by the ancestral method of production of Burgundy sparkling wines.
Hempeiseimaï  A way to polish the rice in an oval shape, following thus the natural shape of the grain.
Hiire Pasteurisation of sake. This can be done using several methods.

Sake tasting temperature corresponding to 35°C - skin temperature.

Hiya Hiyazake, Reishu, sake served cold.
Hiyaoroshi New sake that is made available to the public in the autumn, i.e. after the summer maturation period for sake produced the same year.
Honjozo A sake for which distilled alcohol can be added at the end of fermentation. The addition of alcohol, in very small proportions, allows the aromas to be captured.
Isshobin 1.8l bottle of sake.
Izakaya A traditional Japanese restaurant that could be compared to a tapas bar or wine bar. Sake is served with small dishes.
Jakan A method of pasteurising sake in which the sake is passed through a pipe placed in an apparatus heated to 65°C.
Jikagumi Sake bottled directly from the fermentation tank.
Jokan Sake tasting temperature corresponding to 45°C.
Jo-on Sake tasting temperature corresponding to 20°C.

Sake that has undergone maturation.

Junmaï A sake produced solely by the fermentation of rice by yeast, to which the addition of alcohol at the end of the process is not permitted. Junmai literally means "pure rice".
Kaiseki A type of refined cuisine corresponding to Japanese gastronomic cuisine.
Kakemaï Rice used for the main fermentation (which may be different from the rice used to prepare the koji).
Kan Kanzakée, Atsukan, Saké served hot.
Karakuchi Dry sake.
Kasu Sakekasu, a paste made from fermented rice residue resulting from the filtration of moromi. It is used in certain culinary preparations.
Kasubuaï The percentage of kasu left in relation to the volume of rice used to produce sake. As a general rule, the higher the kashunuai, the more prestigious the sake.
Kijoshu To make Kijoshu, sake is added to the vats during fermentation, not just spring water as in traditional sake. This technique results in a softer, smoother final product.
Kikichoko Traditional brewery bowls. They are simple in shape, white, and marked with concentric circles at the bottom to assess both the colour and turbidity of the liquid.
Kimoto Sake produced using an ancient method that involves crushing the steamed rice into a paste at the start of fermentation.
Kire Finish A sake with a very clean, pure finish.
Kobo Yeast. They ferment simple sugars into alcohol.
Koji Rice carrying Kojikin fungus.
Kojikin Microscopic fungus (Aspergylus oryzae) that converts starch into simple sugars.
Kojimaï Rice used to prepare the koji (which may be different from the rice used in the main fermentation).
Kojimuro The room where the Koji is prepared. The temperature and humidity are precisely controlled.
Kojimuro Koshiki Instrument used to steam rice. The steam arrives from below.
Koshu Sake aged for at least three years in casks, vats or bottles. Koshu has a distinctive amber to orange colour and tertiary aromas.
Kosui Mineral-rich water. Opposite : Nansui.
Kurabito Employee, often seasonal, of a sake brewery.
Kuramoto Owner of a sake brewery.
Masu Box made from hinoki (cypress) or sugi (Japanese cedar) wood. In the past, masu was used as a unit of measurement.
Mirin A drink made from fermented rice and similar to sake, but much milder. It is now considered a condiment and can be enjoyed as a drink when the quality is right.
Moromi Fermenting rice in the vats.
Moto Or Shubo or starter. A preparation containing rice, koji, water and yeast. The base of a fermentation vat.
Muroka A non-filtered charcoal sake. It is pale green to yellow in colour.
Nakadori Or Nakagumi, a sake for which only the liquid that runs out before the pressing action is recovered. Nakadori literally means "to take from the middle".
Nama Or namazake is an unpasteurised sake. It is a lively sake that should be drunk quickly after opening.
Namachozo  Sake stored unpasteurised in vats, then pasteurised when bottled.
Namazume  Sake pasteurised and then stored in vats, before being bottled without further pasteurisation.
Nansui Soft water, low in minerals. Opposite: Kosui.
Nigori Or nigorizake, is a coarsely filtered sake. It has a milky white appearance because particles of rice are still suspended in it.
Nihonshu Japanese name for sake (Nihon = Japan, Shu = alcohol).
Nihoshudo  Sake "sweetness" scale, centred on zero, a negative number indicates a sweet sake while a positive number indicates a dry sake.
Nuka Rice powder resulting from polishing. It is used to make crackers.
Nurukan Sake tasting temperature corresponding to 40°C - body temperature.
Otsumami Small side dishes such as dried fish or squid, crackers, to go with the sake.
Roka Charcoal filtration, which takes place after the moromi filtration stage and removes the colours from the sake.

Or Kura, or Shuzo, refers to the sake brewery.


Sake rice. There are around a hundred different types of sake rice, some of which are very popular and highly prized by brewers. Sakamai is different from everyday rice and is grown solely for sake production.

Sakazuki  A generic term for a sake cup, it was originally a very wide-shaped object used in ceremonies.
Sake no sakana Literally "fish for sake". These are small dishes served with sake in izakaya-type establishments.
Sandanjikomi Three successive stages consisting of the addition of the ingredients needed to maintain the main fermentation.

A scale that defines the acidity of sake.

Seishu Another way of describing Japanese sake.
Seuimaïbuaï Degree of polishing of the rice (expressed as % of remaining material).
Shinpaku The opaque core of a grain of sake rice, rich in starch.
Shizukuzake Or Shizukudori, refers to the drops of sake that drip from the canvas bags in the fukuroshibori method.
Sokujo More recent and the opposite of the Yamahaï or Kimoto method, it is also more widely used. It involves adding lactic acid at the start of fermentation to protect the yeast population and encourage fermentation to begin.
Sugi Japanese cedar used to make masu and taruzake barrels.
Sugidama A ball of sugi branches made every year by brewers to celebrate the start of the new production year.

Sake tasting temperature corresponding to 15°C - the temperature at which it goes from fresh to cold.

Tanrei Karakuchi

A very dry and pure sake. A style traditionally found in the Niigata region.


Sake matured in wooden casks, giving it a woody aroma.

Tobikirikan Saké served very hot - 60°C.
Tobingakoï Or tobindori, corresponds to the heart of the shizukuzake flow (a "Tobin" is an 18-litre lady-jar in which this sake is stored).
Toji A master brewer, he manages sake production.
Tokkuri A decanter used to serve sake. It is also used to heat sake.
Tokubetsu It literally means 'special' and can be used in conjunction with Junmaï or Honjozo if the producer has chosen to polish the rice more, or to use a special yeast or rice.
Tokutei Meishoshu Categorisation grouping together the different types of premium sake. Strict technical rules are imposed on brewers to register their sakes in the Tokutei Meishoshu class, which accounts for around 30% of sake production in Japan.
Usunigori A slightly cloudy sake because it contains a small proportion of suspended rice particles. A variant of the Nigorizake category.
Uwadachika On tasting, the first aromas of sake appear when the glass is raised to the nose.
Yabuta Machine for pressing moromi to filter sake.
Yamahaï Sake produced using an ancient method, an evolution of the kimoto method in which the steamed rice is not crushed into a paste.
Yukibié Sake tasting temperature corresponding to 5°C - snow temperature.