Unfamiliar Sake Terms: Jikagumi

Greetings Sake Lovers

Welcome to another article that decipher tricky jargon found on sake labels. These are terms that you may often come across while tasting with friends but are too embarrassed to ask about. Previous articles have covered terms like genshu, nigorizake, kimoto,etc.

This article explains the meaning of the term jikagumi.

In Pursuit of Freshness From Filter to Bottle

Jikagumi literally translates to “straight to bottle”. That might offer some clue about its meaning.

First, let’s recap over the production process. As explained in earlier articles, following fermentation, sake passes through a filter (press) to separate the solids, kasu (lees) from the liquid. This process is called joso in Japanese.

The aim of joso is to filter the sake while making as little contact with oxygen as feasibly possible. While in wine making, a little oxygen contact can actually help to develop flavours and for some styles is generally regarded as a positive thing, in sake brewing it is generally avoided, except in the case when sake is deliberately aged.

That’s because sake tastes better when it is fresher, more youthful and of a more delicate nature. As you might expect, this is not easy to achieve. Most brewers use high air pressure to force the sake through as quickly as possible and limit air contact.

Just like in wine making, sake is also filtered into fractions. The first filtration applying very little pressure normally produces quite rough sake. This is called arabashiri (literally, rough run). Brewers then apply more pressure and filter a second time. This fraction is called nakadori, (literally middle fraction), so-called because it normally comprises of most of the contents of the middle of the tank where the aromas and flavours are in perfect balance. Nakadori is generally regarded as the best. The third and final fraction is called seme. The final fraction contains a lot of off-flavours and is not as balanced as the middle one.

Now, the thing is that sake brewing is not a consistent art. That is because, every year, the rice is slightly different. The only reason, your favourite sake tastes the same year on year is largely thanks to the skill of the brewer. But in actual fact, while not immediately obvious to the untrained palate, every sake is unique, one of a kind. Sometimes skill is not enough, but brewers can also blend different tanks and fractions together to achieve the desired flavour. This is normally what happens after the sake has been pressed; the sake is returned to the tank and for tax reasons it has to be weighed.

Jikagumi is basically sake that goes direct from the filter to the bottle without any blending or weighing. Don’t worry about the taxman, there are ways around weighing in the tank that keep him happy. In other words, jikagumi locks in the exact same uniqueness that standard brewing practices try to avoid. Jikagumi can also be called funabagumi if the traditional fune filter was used. (see this past article about different types of filtration devices)

Jikagumi is normally bottled and shipped direct without any fining or pasteurization. It is the closest thing to visiting a brewer and tasting sake out of their tank. It really doesn’t get any fresher than this.

Jikagumi is not a legally defined term; it is simply something the brewers invented.

Perhaps because of the omission of blending, jikagumi often comes in quite sweet, rich styles.

KURAND SAKE MARKET’s sake showcase of over 100 different types of sake sometimes include jikagumi. We also offer fresh sake out of an air-compressed draft keg. Simply turn the tap and pour into your favourite glass. The sake in this keg was transferred straight from the tank under inert conditions so technically it is even fresher than jikagumi. Be sure to stop by KURAND and experience many different types of sake the next time you are in Tokyo. We look forward to welcoming you soon.