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I was aware of the US National Sake Appraisal, but hadn’t looked at it very closely until seeing this article on the Shokuhin Sangyō Shinbunsha (Food Industry Newspaper) site reporting the 2018 results.

One thing that caught my eye was the two daiginjō awards, “Daiginjō A” and “Daiginjō B”. What was that all about?

I’ve seen mentions before that due to advances in milling and brewing technology, the range of milling ratios in the daiginjō classification is getting bigger all the time (The problem with tokutei meisho) – the minimum milling ratio is 50%, but sake made with just 25% of the rice grain are fairly well established not to mention the recent 1% (The why of Dassai, and zero to one hundred).

The US Sake Appraisal seems to think this is an issue as well, as their daiginjō category is divided into two:

  • Daiginjō A: milled to 40% or less
  • Daiginjō B: milled to 50% or less

Only the B requirement matches up with Japanese law, so it’s interesting to see a competition drawing another line inside the legal definition. The entry form states that the legal classification on the label is used to determine the category the sake is entered in, so presumably if a brewery calls their sake a ginjō when it meets the requirements for a daiginjō, it is judged as a ginjō.

The competition has been held since 2001, with the aims of recognising great sake and also popularising it in the US. It also honours late researcher and brewer Takao Nihei, who was based in Hawaii and a passionate proponent of sake there. There are eight judges from Japan and three from the US, who blind taste all entries in a first round and then the top 50% in a second round. The entries are tasted in order of glucose concentration to prevent the taste of one sake from overwhelming another. The 2018 competition received entries from 194 breweries across 41 prefectures, with 478 entries competing across four categories: Daiginjō A, Daiginjō B, Ginjō and Junmai (which is interestingly defined as “polishing ratio 55% or more”, with junnmai daiginjō to be entered in the daiginjō division and junmai ginjō to be entered in the ginjō division).

There were 134 gold awards and 126 silver, with the winners of each division as follows:

Daiginjō A

  • Grand Prix: Chotokusen daiginjō Moriko, Yamagata Honten (Yamaguchi)
  • Second Grand Prix: Azuma no Fumoto daiginjō , Azuma no Fumoto Shuzō (Yamagata)
  • Second Grand Prix: Hamachidori daiginjō , Hamachidori (Iwate)

Daiginjō B

  • Grand Prix: Koshi no Kanbai Muku, Ishimoto Shuzō (Niigata)
  • Second Grand Prix: Shichida junmai daiginjō, Tenzan Shuzō (Saga)
  • Second Grand Prix: Tatenokawa junmai daiginjō Phoenix, Tatenokawa Shuzō (Yamagata)


  • Grand Prix: Momokawa Sugidama junmai ginjō, Momokawa (Aomori)
  • Second Grand Prix: Sanran ginjō, Tonoike Shuzōten (Tochigi)
  • Second Grand Prix: Koshi no Kanbai Bessen, Ishimoto Shuzō (Niigata)


  • Grand Prix: Momokawa junmaishu, Momokawa (Aomori)
  • Second Grand Prix: Zaku Ho no Tomo, Shimizu Seizaburo Shōten (Mie)
  • Oyama tokubetsu junmaishu, Kato Kahachiro Shuzō (Yamagata)