Daiginjo sake is considered the pinnacle of a sake brewer’s art. It is the most premium out of all premium sake.
Although quite popular, there is still more that can be discovered from this brew.
To learn more about Diaginjo, read on ahead!
1. Daiginjo: The Super Premium Sake
In Japanese, ‘Daiginjo’ means superior Ginjo (‘Dai’ in Japanese means big or magnificent). And Ginjo is equated to premium sake. This makes Daiginjo a super premium type.
The name says it all — it is the highest quality of sake that you will get your hands on.
Let’s look at the premium types of sake to understand it better.
2. Types of Premium Sake
The types of premium sake are as follows:
- Diaginjo or Junmai Daiginjo
- Ginjo or Junmai Ginjo
- Tokubetsu honjozo or Tokubetu Junmai
- Honjozo or Junmai
Among all of them, the Daiginjo-types (Junmai Daginjo and Daiginjo) have the highest quality.
The quality of premium is strictly managed in Japan. To be considered premium sake, it should have the following characteristics:
- No preservatives or additives
- Koji at least 15% of rice
- Distilled alcohol less than 10% of rice (for Daiginjo, Ginjo, Honjozo)
- Rice grain polished to at least 30% (except Junmai)
What makes Daiginjo so special?
Daiginjo-types can be differentiated through rice-polishing ratio. Sake can only be considered Daiginjo if the rice grain has been polished up to 50% (50% of original grain remaining).
Why polish rice, you ask.
Polishing removes the outer layer of the grain that produces unwanted flavors. It reveals the inner core (‘Shin-paku’ in Japanese) which is tender and rich in starch. The resulting product is finer, cleaner, and more delicate in taste. Thus, the more polished the rice, the higher the grade of the sake.
Among all types of sake, daiginjo has the highest polishing ratio. It uses nothing but the best parts, which creates a very luxurious brew. And since it uses more rice, the price shoots up instantly.
Other characteristics of Daiginjo
Aside from rice-polishing rate, Daiginjo also has an exceptionally good aroma and color.
Since Ginjo and Daiginjo are produced at lower temperatures, fermentation takes much longer. The result of this long, arduous process and the precise skills of the brew master(s) is referred to as the ‘Art of Sake’.
3. Two types of Daiginjo
When looking for sake, you might encounter Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo. The difference between the two lies in their ingredients.
Junmai means “pure rice” and is made without distilled alcohol. For non-Junmai premium sake, alcohol is added for the following reasons:
- To create a more aromatic brew
- To stabilize quality by preventing bacterial contamination
- To create a transparent appearance
- To produce a lighter taste
The greatest impact of adding alcohol is in the aroma. More aromatic and flavorful components dissolve easily in alcohol. As a result, Daiginjo has stronger fruit-like aroma compared to Junmai Daiginjo or other sake.
This is not to say, however, that Junmai sake is less superior. It has its own set of unique qualities and flavor profile.
But, for a more fragrant sake, choose Daiginjo.
4. Tasting Daiginjo
What does Daiginjo taste like?
Although taste may vary per brewery, Daiginjo, in general, has a light and delicate taste with the fruit-like aroma of apple, melon, or banana. The flavor of rice- a nutty, herby taste- is very distinct in Junmai Daiginjo.
Drink it chilled and served in a wine glass to fully savor its aroma and taste. We don’t recommend heating this premium sake as this will quickly destroy its delicate taste and aroma.
5. How to Find Daiginjo
Daiginjo is fairly common and easy to find. Anyone working in a liquor store selling sake may be able to help you out.
If you are alone and are unable to find English labels, look for the following:
Below are some examples.
Daiginjo offers nothing but the best. Thanks to the special ingredients and the intricate techniques of brew masters, we can enjoy this cream of the crop brew.