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The sake aroma profiles shown below are used for describing aroma classifications to the general public.
Ginjo-shu is rich in aromas suggestive of tree fruits, such as apple and pear, or tropical fruits like banana, melon and lychee. It is these aromas that are referred to as ginjo-ka. The element “ka” means aroma. The aroma comes from the esters produced by yeast in the fermentation process and is analogous to the secondary aroma in wine. To make sake with ginjo-ka, it is necessary to use highly polished rice and to employ painstaking care to create the right low-temperature conditions for fermentation. This brewing technique is known as ginjo-zukuri.
Some varieties of koshu, or long-aged sake, may have an aroma suggestive of clove, cinnamon or fenugreek.
Another type of aroma found in some koshu varieties is reminiscent of almond or walnut, while some forms of namazake may have a hazelnut aroma.
Taruzake, or sake that has been stored in cedar casks, has a wood aroma, called kiga, which derives from the cedar used in the cask. Some sake varieties have an aroma evocative of green grass or roses.
Certain types of junmai-shu have a grainy aroma similar to that of the rice from which sake is made.
Koji has an aroma similar to mushroom. This comes through in certain types of namazake and young sake varieties.
Because sake contains large amounts of amino acids and sugars, it acquires color and a sweet burned aroma due to the Maillard reaction during aging. This ranges from a honey-like aroma to one resembling soy sauce, brown sugar or dried fruit in the case of koshu varieties that are allowed to age for several years.
Depending on fermenting conditions, some varieties of sake have an aroma similar to butter or cheese, or a vinegar-like aroma.