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The Fab 4 Ingredients

We’re often asked what the big and bright “g” stands for on g joy and g fifty bottles. Is it Junmai “Ginjo”? Is it Garth Brooks or Google? (these are our favorites). No, no & no. G is for Genshu.

Genshu – 原酒 – (pronounced Ghen-shoo)

Undiluted, this style of sake is bottled without adding water to temper the alcohol percentage. Many brewers believe that the flavors and textures are best expressed in their naturally fermented state. Sake naturally reaches around 18-20% ABV (Alcohol by Volume) during normal fermentation, making it one of the highest naturally occurring alcohol contents in a beverage. It tends to be slightly higher in alcohol than the industry average sake which is usually diluted with water to 14-15% alcohol before bottling.

A Genshu is not necessarily more boozy tasting. Some sake are so clean and crisp that you would never guess the alcohol content is so high (dangerous, right?). With undiluted sake there is a sense of all the elements being more intense in flavor and aroma. Some Genshu end up dryer because the extra alcohol dries up the flavors as it passes your palate. Others can taste exceedingly sweet and fruity. In some Genshu you’ll find a powerful punch, with a fiery feeling on the tongue. The characteristics of each Genshu as a style are related to the body and aroma of the sake itself.

Though uncommon, some Genshu can be finished with less than 18% ABV by adjusting temperatures, using special yeast, or filtering the sake before fermentation is complete.

We brew a few wonderful Genshu at our Kura in Forest Grove, Oregon. Check out our signature g lineup.

g fifty, Junmai Ginjo Genshu:

A brighter and even more revolutionary take on Genshu with equal parts of power and elegance, polish and panache. Medium-dry on the palate, g fifty features a silky texture with subtle notes suggestive of grape, green apples and refreshing mint that are artfully melded against a backdrop of minerals and spice. It’s our most premium and most polished sake to date.

Enjoyment: Its’ high acidity and fruity flavors make it the perfect match for fresh cuisines like shrimp tacos, grilled meats, and pasta.

Polish: 50%           SMV: 0                ABV: 18%

g joy, Junmai Ginjo Genshu:

Handcrafted using ancient Japanese techniques and American sensibilities, g joy is the essence of East meets West and past meets present. Being Genshu, it retains the big and bold aromas and tastes that are typically diluted out to soften and smooth the natural heartiness of sake. This is not a shy brew and we suggest you be equally open and share a bottle with friends. It’s bold, rich and full of exceptional flavors like melon, cherry with a pepper finish.

Enjoyment: Wonderful on its own or on the rocks. It’s our favorite BBQ sake, but works well with anything smoked or hearty like lamb kabobs or spicy Thai.

Polish: 60%           SMV: +3                ABV: 18%

We also carry Momokawa Pearl, a Nigori Genshu, Moonstone Coconut Lemongrass Nigori, and Murai Family Nigori Genshu.

If you’re specifically looking for a Genshu at your grocery store, most will have the word “Genshu” on the front or back label. If the label isn’t forthcoming, you can also look at the alcohol content. Anything above 18% is a good bet.

The fact that a great deal of sake is made from just four ingredients can come as quite a shock. How can a Nigori style have distinct flavors of cherry, coconut or honey? And why do I detect floral and melon notes on the nose of my Daiginjo? The answers generally boil down to two factors: 1) A master brewer’s selection of each type of ingredient and 2) The brewing techniques they utilize to achieve their vision. We’ll be describing the core four ingredients over the next few months, breaking each ingredient down to show how minute differences can impact the taste, aroma, and quality of any given sake. Today, let’s talk water.

It might seem obvious that water is a necessary ingredient since rice has no juice to press out, but it is often overlooked. Sake is about 80% water. From a utility standpoint, as long as the water is clean it is generally suitable for brewing sake. However, in premium sake, water composition matters a great deal which is why seasoned sake drinkers can often connect flavor characteristics to unique regions. Like beer, sake is brewed where the quality water is rather than where the grain or other ingredients are cultivated. Also, similar to beer, water makes up over 80% of the final product. So, it is important.

While the benefits of certain minerals when it comes to brewing varies, iron is universally considered undesirable. Iron will cause sake to darken and create unwanted aromas and flavors. It is also known to hasten the aging process. Manganese interacts with light causing sake to become discolored and dampen the overall look and character. Good elements in brewing water include potassium, magnesium and phosphoric acid. These aid propagation of yeast and development of Koji. Depending on the style of sake, the mineral levels or ‘hardness’ can create varying levels of bitter/dryness or fruity/floral Ginjo style flavors.

Soft water usually yields a gentler, lighter body, while hard water yields a more robust fermentation which transitions into the final product. In general, sake breweries in soft-water havens such as Kyoto and Hiroshima do very well producing contemporary and more fragrant styles of sake while breweries in mineral-rich areas such as Kobe continue creating and iterating upon more classic styles. From Futsu to Diaginjo, modern brewing technology has enabled breweries all over the world to produce a wide variety of sake styles within each brewery.

SakéOne’s founder chose Oregon because he believed that the best quality water for sake brewing was in the Northwest, specifically on the east slope of the coastal range in Forest Grove, Oregon. Boy was he right!

When enjoying your sake, take a moment to note where it was brewed so you have yet another tool in your toolbox that will help guide you to a new favorite.

Fun Fact: Many large breweries possess the ability and technology to filter elements out or add elements into their batch water, giving the brewery an added dimension of versatility when brewing styles that would otherwise be difficult using regionally sourced water as-is.

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