Difference Between Junmai-shu and Alcohol Added Sake

Do you know that there are two main types of sake ingredients? They are “junmai-shu” and “alcohol-added sake.In this article, we will introduce the differences between Junmai-shu and alcohol-added sake, which you should know when choosing sake!


Difference between Junmai-shu and alcohol-added sake

First of all, what exactly is the difference between “Junmai-shu” and “sake with added alcohol”?
The main ingredient of junmai sake is rice.
The main ingredients for junmai-shu are rice (steamed rice), rice malt and water. In addition, brewing alcohol is added as a secondary ingredient. The fermentation of the unrefined sake is almost finished, and brewing alcohol is added just before pressing the unrefined sake. The brewing alcohol itself is made by fermenting waste molasses (the black liquid produced when making sugar), sugar cane, sweet potatoes, corn, and other grains and distilling them several times to produce a highly pure alcohol content. So why do we dare to add alcohol when fermentation has already been completed?

Let us explain in three points.

Why add alcohol?

1 Stabilization of quality

The addition of brewing alcohol began in the Edo period. It was originally added to sake, which was originally made with only rice and rice malt, to make it last longer. The addition of alcohol stopped the growth of fire-retarding bacteria, which deteriorated the flavor of sake, and prevented spoilage, thereby stabilizing the quality. For this reason, shochu made with sake lees, which is distilled from the sake lees obtained after pressing the unrefined sake, was used at that time. The brewing alcohol used today is a highly purified alcohol that does not taste like the raw material itself, so it does not interfere with the taste of the sake itself and enhances its preservation.

2 Price

Many people may have the impression that sake containing brewing alcohol is an alcoholic beverage that tends to make people feel bad. It is true that some alcohol-added sake has in the past been sold at a lower price by adding more brewing alcohol and increasing the volume. Due to a shortage of rice during World War II, “triple-brewed sake” was made by adding twice as much brewing alcohol to the finished sake to make it three times as much. As a result, brewer’s alcohol still has a bad image. Today, the amount of brewing alcohol added is regulated at 50% of the white rice used for regular sake, and 10% for daiginjo, ginjo, and honjozo, and is not increased unnecessarily as in the past.There are many cheap and tasty sake products that do not cause intoxication even if they are regular sake with added brewing alcohol.

3 Adjustment of flavor

The most important role of brewing alcohol addition is to change the flavor and aroma. Junmai sake without added alcohol is characterized by the taste of the rice itself and its robust flavor,
Brewer’s alcohol has the effect of softening the rice-derived flavor and making the sake more refreshing.
In addition, the aroma of sake tends to dissolve easily in alcohol, so the addition of alcohol makes the ginjo aroma more vibrant.
Among Tokutei Meishu, Daiginjo is particularly aromatic and easy to drink, with almost no rice flavor.


As described above, the addition of brewing alcohol has different purposes, such as stabilizing quality, reducing price, and adjusting aroma, Junmai-shu” and “alcohol-added sake” each have their own advantages.
Many people have a bad image of brewing alcohol, but it is not a bad thing, It is an important point to know when enjoying sake.

Why don’t you compare these two types of sake and see the difference between them?
You may discover something new!

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Who wrote this article?

We are the only sake tour company based in Kyoto Fushimi Sake Capital.

Good and strong relationship with local breweries and insiders allow us to provide you deeper sake experience.
Our guides are International Kikisake-shi, specialists of sake who can show how to enjoy sake according to personal preference, market condition, culture, and tradition. For any inquiries, please contact us :)