Explaining junmai and honjozo has never been easy. Junmai is both a level of premium sake and the family of sake that is made without distilled spirit, thus, “pure rice.”
Until 2010, junmai level sake had a minimum polishing ratio of 70%. Large breweries, seeing a bite taken out of their sales by smaller producers, wanted to get into the “junmai game” without having to polish away so much rice. In all fairness, they were also making a lot of “pure rice” sake. They lobbied and won, which has had the positive effect of “junmai” appearing on a lot more sake labels. Now, junmai has no minimum polishing level but honjozo still does—70%. There is also a limit to how much distilled spirit can be added—the spirit must be no more than 10% of the volume of rice used in the total brew.
Stylistically, junmais and honjozos are similar. Although there are cleaner and fruitier expressions of both, generally speaking, junmais and honjozos are rich, nutty, ricey, and structured. While ginjos and daiginjos will have fruity and aromatic elements, junmais and honjozos tend to show acidity and umami. They are more casual than ginjos and daiginjos.