Honjozo Sake |Sake Differences|

This is a Dai-Ginjo sake with plenty of popularity and Abe served this to Obama when he was in Japan. While the two heads of state enjoyed Hiroshima Prefecture’s Kamotsuru. While their sake was recently graced by Japan’s prime minister, Kamotsuru’s history goes back to 1623.

Little did Obama know that this sake has pure alcohol added to it. Sake brewers discovered that certain aroma and flavor properties in the fermenting mash were much more vibrant when a small amount of added alcohol was added. The added alcohol also increases sturdiness and stability, so honjozos can maintain quality longer than junmais both before and after opening the bottle.

Honjozo sake is not inherently sweet—the alcohol is generally added after the yeast has completed fermenting the sugar in the sake. Honjozos are not higher in alcohol than junmais. Both honjozo and junmai, with the exception of genshu (undiluted) sakes, are diluted with water to reach a lower alcohol content. Although makers of bulk sake do often add large quantities of alcohol to increase overall volume, honjozo sake producers don’t add much. To qualify as honjozo, the weight of the added alcohol must be no more than 10% of the weight of the sake rice used in brewing. In fact, some of the best honjozo brewers use even less.

Junmaishu refers to pure sake, pure in the sense that no additives are made to the starches or sugars other than rice added to the fermenting mixture, and that no brewer’s alcohol was added either.

Junmai-shu, like honzojo-shu, must be made with rice with a Seimai Buai (degree of milling) of at least 70%. This is the number you will see on the label which denotes that the rice has been polished so that no more than 70% of the original size of the grains remains. In other words, at least 30% of the outer portion of each rice grain has been ground away. Junmai often has a fuller, richer body and a higher than average acidity.

Honjozo is sake wherein a small amount of distilled pure alcohol is added to smooth and lighten the flavor, and to make the sake a bit more aromatic and fragrant. Honjozo-shu, like Junmai-shu, must be made with rice with a Seimai Buai (degree of milling) of at least 70%.

Honjozo sake is often a bit lighter than other sake, due to the small amount of grain alcohol added at the end of the ferment. This is not a bad thing, in moderation, and brewers have been doing it for hundreds of years.