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Junmai Ginjo: The Pure Rice Premium Sake

Tom Inoue

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There are different types of sake and Junmai Ginjo is definitely one of the most popular. Not only does it boast of premium quality, but it’s also less expensive than its counterparts.

But what is Junmai Ginjo and how does it taste like?

Once you get to know more about it, that won’t be so hard to answer. Why not take 5 minutes of your time to understand more about this exceptional drink?

1. ‘Junmai’ = Pure Rice

pure rice

In Japanese, ‘Jun-mai’ means ‘pure-rice’. This indicates that this sake does not have any added seasonings or distilled alcohol.

basic ingredients

Since Junmai does not have added distilled alcohol, its taste is richer compared to other types of sake. It has savory notes of roasted meats, herbs, and spices.

2. ‘Ginjo’ = Aromatic

The term ‘Ginjo’ actually refers to a method of sake-making. It is different from regular methods in terms of 2 things — rice-polishing ratio and fermentation method.


Ginjo uses rice that has been polished to less than 60% of its original size. In addition, its fermentation takes place at lower temperatures (50°F or 10°C) and at longer periods of time (30 days) compared to regular sake.

The rice bran often contains several nutrients, but it is polished off to prevent unfavorable flavors from being present in sake. Since the rice used for Ginjo has less nutrients compared to regular sake, the yeasts are able to produce aromatic components such as ethyl caproate and isoamyl acetate. The longer fermentation periods at lower temperatures promotes this activity. As a result, Ginjo-type of sake gets a fruit-like aroma that is comparable to melon, apple, or banana.

3. Flavors of Junmai Ginjo


Now that we’ve looked at Junmai and Ginjo separately, let’s understand Junmai Ginjo by putting together the qualities mentioned above. In general, Junmai Ginjo has the following characteristics:

  • Savory notes of roasted meats, herbs, and spices
  • Fruit-like aroma of melon, apple, or banana

However, when comparing it with other sake types, it generally:

  • Is more aromatic, but not as aromatic as Honjozo type.
    Junmai Ginjo has aromatic properties due to its method of fermentation. But the distilled alcohol content of Honjozo-type allows for much of the aromatic compounds to be extracted into the sake.
  • Has a rich, nutty taste but is less rich than Junmai sake.
    It is relatively lighter in flavor than Junmai sake because it uses more polished rice (<60% of original rice grain). The nutty, herby taste of rice can, nonetheless, still be appreciated (as with all Junmai-types).

4. How can you enjoy Junmai Ginjo?

Enjoy itself or as aperitif

Junmai Ginjo is flavorful, aromatic, and can be enjoyed alone or before meals.

Hot Junmai Ginjo

Warming is generally not recommended for Ginjo-types of sake. This is because the aroma can easily be lost through heating. Normally, chilled or room temperature is preferred.

However, the rich taste of Junmai is beautifully enhanced by heating. Some Junmai Ginjo can even be enjoyed hot.

There is no definite rule for how Junmai Ginjo should be served. Just be cautious when you heat it for the reason stated above.

Enjoy with food

Junmai Ginjo has a relatively lighter flavor compared to other types of sake, and enjoying it with light food items (e.g. white fish, salad, vegetable dishes) would be a good choice.

food pairing

Do take note that this is simply a general recommendation. Every brand offers unique flavors and characteristics to their Junmai Ginjo sake, so it best to try several brands and match them with food having similar qualities.

5. Where and how to get Junmai Ginjo

Globally, several online sake shops are selling Junmai Ginjo. Here are some of them:


Sake Social (U.S.) www.sakesocial.com

True Sake (U.S.) www.truesake.com

Jizake Center (U.S.) www.truesake.com

Sakaya (U.S. NYC) www.sakayanyc.com

Total Wine (U.S.)www.totalwine.com

AC Spirits (U.S.) search.store.yahoo.net

Japan Center (U.K.) www.japancentre.com

Japan Food Hall (U.K.)japanfoodhall.com

Ueno Gourmet (U.K. Germany, Switzerland) uk.japan-gourmet.com

Amazon U.K. (delivery available for other countries) www.amazon.co.uk

Sake Shop (Australia) sakeshop.chefsarmoury.com

Sake Inn (Australia) www.sakeinn.com

Koji Sake (Hong Kong) www.koji-sake.com

Whistler Wine and Spirits Pte (Singapore) whistler.com.sg

baccousonline (Thailand) www.bacchusonline.net

In Japan

If you are in Japan and you want to find Junmai Ginjo by yourself, here is what you need to look for on the bottle.




6. Best Junmai Ginjo Sake

Below are some of the best selections of Japanese sake by experts, as of 2015 (The list was provided by Nikkei).

ARAMASA No.6 S-type


Photo Credit: www.aramasa.jp

Brewed using the oldest existing sake yeast (No. 6), this sake has the fruit-like aroma of white peach and lychee, which contributes to its fresh and sophisticated taste.

TAKA Yamadanishiki


Photo Credit: www.yamanaka-sake.jp

Made from the rice variety called “Yamada Nishiki”, this sake has a slightly deep but mild acidity making it sophisticated and natural.

SHARAKU Bizen-Omachi


Photo Credit: www.miyaizumi.co.jp

Brewed from Bizen-Omachi rice, this sakes comes crisp but complex. It is noted for its fruit-like aroma, mild sweetness, and smooth aftertaste.



Photo Credit: item.rakuten.co.jp

This sake is mild and refreshing on the palate, balanced by its soft sweetness and mellow taste.

JUYONDAI Kakushin Honmaru Hon-nama


Photo Credit: 10yondai.blog67.fc2.com

With the aroma of ripe fruit and florals, this sake has a thick but balanced taste, solid sweetness, and a gentle aftertaste.

MII NO KOTOBUKI Haru-Jungin QuadriFoglio

mii no kotobuki

Photo Credit: item.rakuten.co.jp

The “Quadrifoglio” (4-leaf clover) has a deep and rich body with a citrus-like freshness.



Photo Credit: item.rakuten.co.jp

With a mild and gentle acidity, this sake imparts a light but sharp aftertaste.

HOUKEN Hattan Nishiki


Photo Credit: item.rakuten.co.jp

Made with the “Hattan Nishiki” rice variety, this sake has a mild aroma and an initial ultra-soft taste followed by a sharp bitter aftertaste.

ISHIZUCHI Green Label Fune-Shibori


Photo Credit: item.rakuten.co.jp

Produced through the technique called “Fune-shibori”, this sake has been pressed in a traditional wooden ‘fine” box press. It has a gentle, crisp and refreshing taste like spring water.

COWBOY Yamahai Genshu


Photo Credit: item.rakuten.co.jp

The “cowboy” has a thick acidity, and a sharp, rich body that creates a dry and lively sake.

For more details about the specific ranking of these Junmai Ginjo sake as well as other types of sake, read the ‘30 Best Sakes by Experts in Japan’.

Hopefully, you’ve learned a lot about Junmai Ginjo. The only thing left to do is to check the several Junmai Ginjo products on the market to find the best one for you!

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