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Guide to Junmai & Honjozo sake

December 1, 2013

Browse junmai & honjozo in our sake shop.

Junmai & Honjozo sakes are generally made with rice polished to remove at least 30% of the outer layer of the grain (reminder of sake classifications) although junmai can be less polished. They account for about 18% of all sake produced, and tend to have a richer and fuller flavour profile than ginjo sake. They are also more tolerant of being heated and therefore, generally, can be enjoyed across a wider temperature range.


Junmai sake is usually full of character and has rich, earthy and umami flavours in abundance. The body tends to be bit heavier and fuller than other types, and the acidity is generally more pronounced. Unlike the more refined ginjo classes, one thing you tend not to get is a big, floral/fruity bouquet; rather, earthy notes that highlight the flavours and qualities of the rice are the norm.

Due to the addition of a little bit of brewers alcohol, honjozo sake is usually smoother, lighter and dryer with a more pronounced bouquet and less ricey elements than junmai.

Both types are designed for easy drinking and are wonderful when enjoyed at a leisurely pace over a long evening, either with or without food and are delicious over a range of temperatures.


Rocky Mountain Misty Mountain Special Red Dragon Waning Moon Black Samurai
 Rocky Mountain – rustic, raw & earthy  Misty Mountain – cloudy, zesty & exciting  Special Red Dragon – eweet rice & bamboo notes  Waning Moon – easy drinking with good umami  Black Samurai – rich with buckets of umami


Heavenly Brew Heavenly Brew Sky Conqueror
 Autumn Leaves – warming with caramel & creamed rice Heavenly Brew – smooth, crisp & bone dry Sky Conqueror – peppery, zesty & dry; versatile


One of the joys of drinking junmai and honjozo is the ability to enjoy these fabulously drinkable sake at a variety of temperatures. Experimenting by trying to find the various ‘sweet spots’ is half the fun! Tengu Sake always provides recommendations with each sake. The junmai Morning Dew, for example is smooth and mellow at 40-45°C but dry and crisp straight from the fridge.


Both junmai & honjozo are gifted all-rounders. They are great session tipples: great for sharing with friends or relaxing at the end of the day. They also pair fabulously with a good range of foods. The richness and high umami content of junmai makes them particularly good with slow-cooked foods such as roasts or stews or with other textured and umami-rich dishes like cured meats, tomato dishes, cheeses, etc. (please see our page on food pairing to discover more).  A sake with a lot of umami and a particularly rich, deep flavour is Rocky Mountain, which works perfectly with blue cheese, for example.

Honjozo, being lighter, tends to pair with flavours that are not as rich and thick and it can be a great match with Chinese or Thai food that has a little bit of a kick. Sky Conqueror from Hayashi Honten is a good example as its peppery and zesty qualities match well. On the other hand Yamatogawa’s Autumn Leaves is richer, creamy and textured so works well with patés and other richer meat dishes.  Honjozo sakes are also, generally, a good match with sushi.