Tales From The Top Shelf: Junmai Daigingo Sake

Get it, girl.
Get it, girl. Screenshot taken from Gattaca 95 from

Mmmm, hot sake bombs. But, in an effort to dress this up perhaps something a little—


"Top Shelf", as they say?

Junmai Daigingo sake: She just graduated college, accepted a job on Wall Street, but before all that took time to study abroad in Switzerland as well as squeeze in a spring break trip to Thailand. Junmai Daigingo is polished and bougie—she even has a bodyguard who drives her to nail appointments.

A long time ago, like—a really long time, it’s Japan— people discovered they could make alcohol from enzymes produced in the human mouth during the chewing process. How they came to that conclusion isn't known though some say this guy Kaito dared this other guy Riku to taste from within the communal spitting pot. Combined with natural yeasts found in the air, and chewable grains like rice, that enzyme creates a unique fungus with the ability to ferment sugars into alcohol. Fast forward thousands of years later, methods have become a touch more sanitary, the finished product a touch more refined.

The word "Junmai" refers to the grade of sake, which is determined by how much the rice grain is milled before beginning the fermentation process. To be graded Junmai, the rice kernel must be milled at least 30 percent, leaving 70 percent of the grain intact. That number "70," referred to as Seimaibuai, is your guiding light to top shelf sake. The lower the number, the better. Basically, the more a rice kernel is "polished," the cleaner flavor it will lend to the final product.

To be classified as Junmai Daigingo, the Seimaibuai must be at least 50, so polished by half. A sake labeled Daigingo by itself, means it has a Seimaibuai of 50, and also a distilled liquor added.

In recent centuries, sake production has taken several creative turns with techniques like aging (Koshu), serving it unfiltered (Nigori), and skipping the pasteurization process(Nama.)

So next time a Japanese night is on the agenda, try upgrading with a bottle of Junmai Daigingo, best served chilled.

click to enlarge An anime depiction of Kuchikamizake, virgins chewing rice and spitting into a container, an essential step in ancient Asian alcohol making. - SCREENSHOT FROM YOUR NAME
An anime depiction of Kuchikamizake, virgins chewing rice and spitting into a container, an essential step in ancient Asian alcohol making.
Screenshot from Your Name
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