Shochu is a distilled spirit that is made in Japan, and some people in Japan call it “sake”. In countries such as Australia, the UK and the US, “sake” is commonly known as the rice wine described below under “sake”, so to avoid confusion let’s stick with the name “shochu” for distilled spirit and “sake” for rice wine.

Schochu is made from various raw materials, including barley, sweet potato, buckwheat, rice and, sometimes, brown sugar.


You may have tried sake at a Japanese restaurant, warm or cold, and you may have struggles to get it down. There is a good reason for that – sake comes in grades, and you probably ordered the lowest (and cheapest) grade of sake. Once you explore the different grades of sake, I am confident that when you think of Japan, the first word that come to mind will be daiginjo!

Sake grades, put simply, are determined by how much rice is milled or polished away before brewing. Sake is made from rice and Kōji rice, and some brews add distilled alcohol. The more rice that is milled away, the higher the grade of sake. Simple. The processes and flavours are far from simple, however, and that is what makes sake so fascinating.  


Top tier (50% milled away):
1(a): Junmai Daiginjō-shu 純米大吟醸酒1(b) Daiginjō-shu 大吟醸酒 (distilled alcohol added)

2nd tier (40% milled away):
2(a): Junmai Ginjō-shu 純米吟醸酒2(b): Ginjō-shu 吟醸酒 (distilled alcohol added)

3rd tier: (30% milled away):
3(a): Junmai-shu 純米酒3(b): Honjōzō-shu 本醸造酒 (distilled alcohol added)

Bottom tier, table sake: 
Futsū-shu 普通酒

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