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Matured Sake, Aged Sake

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Despite a rich and storied history spanning millennia, in certain terms, sake has yet to unequivocally prove its ability to stand the test of time.

If you’re in some way associated with the sale or service of sake, likely one of the most common questions you get is, “How long can I keep my sake before it starts to go bad?” or, “How long does sake stay good after it’s opened?” As a buyer, these are both logical and very important questions. As an industry, having clear and concise answers to those questions is equally important. In order to keep things simple, as well as to help assure an overwhelmingly positive experience for as many sake drinkers as possible, the general message adopted suggests that sake should be consumed within 6-12 months from purchase, refrigerated both prior to and after opening, and then consumed within several days to a week once it’s been opened. This is sound advice that’s relevant to a great majority of the sake being produced and sold both domestically and internationally.

There is, however, a paradigm that exists entirely outside of the above logic; where a greater element of time isn’t only a factor, but a necessity.

Welcome to the world of matured and aged sake.

Often referred to as koshu – literally “old sake” – often translated as “aged sake”, or jukuseishu, commonly translated as “matured sake”, bottles of sake referencing these qualities were crafted taking time into account. That amount of time can be anywhere from a few years to a few decades depending on the style of sake and the intent of the brewer, and in many cases the results are astounding.

Yet despite plenty of beautiful examples of aged or matured sake on the market and countless historical texts singing the praises of what time can do to a bottle of sake, a rather perfect storm of circumstances coalesced to nearly erase aged sake culture, production, and consumer appreciation from the collective understanding of sake for about a century.

Thankfully, a relatively small, but thoughtful, proactive and coordinated effort from a growing number of sake makers and sellers has been hard at work seeking to rebuild and redefine what time can mean (and cost) when factored into a bottle of sake. Whether it be the collective rebranding efforts of the Toki Sake Association, the Muni line from Kokuryu used in the first ever sake industry auction in 2018, the dedication to long-term aging in ceramic storage vessels by Tsuki no Katsura, or a handful of specialty bars dedicated to the unique and treasured style, awareness surrounding the magic that time can work on a bottle of the right kind of sake is slowly building.

This week, Sebastien Lemoine, Marie Nagata and Justin Potts gather to discuss the historical and modern context of matured and aged sake, the formal definitions (or lack thereof) in place, the typical qualities that time imparts on a bottle of sake, what maturing sake could mean from a service standpoint, and more.

For those of you that missed our special interview on the topic for Sake Future Summit 2020, Aged Sake and the Test of Time, that’s a great primer (or follow-up) to this episode. Prior to this episode Sebastien actually sat down with Nobuhiro Ueno, while Justin paid a visit to Tokubee Masuda of Tsuki no Katsura, to help us get a bit more insight into this fascinating sake category. Those interviews will see the light of day in some form a bit further down the road, but for now, we hope you’ll pour yourself a glass of sake and settle in with us for an exploration into the one thing that proves nearly impossible to attach a price tag to no matter what the context: time.

Thanks for once again tuning in to Sake On Air. You can help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on any of your favorite services that deliver you all of your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.com with any thoughts or feelings, or go ahead and follow us on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll get into how time factors into the world of shochu and awamori in another show another day. For this week, give your sake a bit of quality time.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Okawari: U.S. Love of Nigori with “The Sake Ninja”

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In an ideal world we’d bring you listeners a brand-new episode each and every week. While we can’t see that happening in the immediate future, in the process of creating or preparing for many of our episodes we end up with a lot of fun and insightful conversations that sadly just don’t make it into a final episode.

Whether it be interviews conducted in attempt to broaden our perspective and gain further insight into a specific topic before attempting to tackle it, or an unanticipated tangent during a regular recording that we just can’t bring ourselves to carve up, but also can’t force into the overall show structure, we’ve continued to amass quite a bit of material that we would love to share with our listeners at some point and in some capacity.

That’s what we’re testing the waters with this week, in our first (but hopefully not last) episode of “Okawari”.

In Japanese, the term okawari refers to ordering “another round”. Essentially, if you’re asking for okawari, you want to keep the party going. That’s what we hope this week’s show (and future okawari installments) can bring to the table.

As part of the process of examining the world of Nigori Sake for episode 60, we thought it would be interesting to get a bit of insight into the U.S. market’s unique attachment to this special style. In order to do that, we called up sake expert, certified Sake Samurai, and self-declared Sake Ninja, Chris Johnson, to share with us the evolution and status of the style in the U.S.

One thing for sure is that we’ll be coaxing the Sake Ninja to reappear in future episodes, as there are dozens of topics that we’d love to pick his brain on, and he deserves a feature all his own. That’s one of the reasons we’re giving this week’s conversation okawari status. Our chat with Chris is both great supportive material for our previous episode, while providing more than enough substance to be fully satisfying as a stand-alone episode in its own right.

We’ve got lots more material in the vault that we could use to pour you all “another round” of your favorite past topics, guests, and even entirely new snippets and insights. Let us know what you think of the concept and we’ll see what we can do to develop the format in the future.

You can send those thoughts to questions@sakeonair.com or message us via InstagramTwitter, or Facebook. Note that you’ll also help out the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on whichever service you rely upon for your podcast needs.

Thanks for supporting us here at Sake On Air. We’ll be back with more sake and shochu-infused goodness in just a couple of weeks.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

The Murky Waters of Nigori Sake

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There’s a fascinating schism that’s emerged between the domestic and international markets’ relationship with nigori-style sake over that past few decades.

With its rather odd positioning landing it someplace between a more “traditional” style and at the same time a relatively “new” product proposition, a few distinct exceptions aside, nigori sake generally makes up an incredibly small portion of most makers’ product lineup.

At the same time, in some international markets (the U.S. in particular), nigori sake has developed a life of its own as an ever-present and iconic style representing the sake category as a whole, resulting in relatively more common placement on drink menus and amidst distributor portfolios than you’d often find in Japan.

Recent for creative and nuanced interpretations aside, for many years more “standard” offerings of nigori sake tended to be sold as (and as a result, perceived as) more budget products. However, the burdens of merely crafting a nigori sake are many and varied – arguably more demanding than a great deal of “clear” product – with the craft of producing a truly great nigori sake being in many cases a rather herculean task.

Why the disconnect? Is there really a “typical” or “traditional” nigori-style sake? Is Japan slowly developing a newfound appreciation for new styles of nigori? Do international brewers have an advantage when it comes to indoctrinating new sake drinkers through nigori-style sake?

Discussions around these topics and more this week with several of your regular Sake On Air hosts Sebastien Lemoine, Chris Hughes and Justin Potts. In preparing for this episode the team asked around different corners of the industry for various perspective and insight. You’ll get a bit of that here, but expect more from those interviewees in the coming weeks, as well.

There’s a lot to love about nigori, an infinitely diverse and growing style poised for a renaissance in the global world of sake. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Thanks for once again tuning in to Sake On Air. You can help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on any of your favorite services that deliver you all of your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.com with any thoughts or feelings, or go  ahead and follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

Thanks for choosing sake and shochu. Be sure to pour yourself a bit of nigori this week, as well.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Sake Future Summit 2020 Revisited (Part 2)

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Just a few episodes back we decided to revisit some of the highlights from Sake Future Summit 2020. In preparing for and editing that episode there was so much that we wanted to include but couldn’t in the interest of time, we devised a clever solution: we just did it again.

As with the previous round, if you have the time to really pick through all of these on the official Sake On Air YouTube channel, the visual component adds a lot to these and there’s a great deal more fascinating and insightful material that we just couldn’t cram in. Also, seeing as how half of the programming for the Sake Future Summit was comprised of interviews, tours, presentations and discussions conducted with individuals from the Japanese side of the industry and carried out in Japanese and subtitled, a majority of the great programming is still stuck in a visual-only format. If you’re sipping sake or shochu over the weekend, firing those sessions up alongside your beverage-of-choice isn’t a bad way to spend an evening. You can find those all archived over on our YouTube channel.

In this episode you’ll hear from hear:
– How the pros of the U.K. sake market are looking to bring it to the next level in a discussion with Barry McCaughley (Restaurateur; F&B Development Consultant), Miho Komatsu (Sake Specialist for Marussia Beverage; Marketing and International Sales for Akashi-tai Sake Brewery), Akiko Konishi (Manager of Intl. Dept. at Konishi Shuzo), and navigated by Oliver Hilton-Johnson (Tengu Sake).

– About how some unique approaches to the Spanish market could change the game for sake, together with Pablo Alomar Salvioni (President of Salvioni & Alomar), Francois Chartier (Aroma Specialist; Master Blender for Tanaka 1789 X Chartier), and Rubén Pol Ramon (Head Sommelier at Restaurant Disfrutar, Barcelona).

– The ways in which shochu is poised to be woven into the future of the world’s best bars with Don Lee (Industry mentor; former partner Existing Conditions), Ryan Chetiyawardana (Founder of Mr. Lyan; Cocktail bartender), and Chikako Ichihara (CEO of Azix; Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association US Liaison officer).

– How French cuisine could pave the way for sake to be incorporated into the upper echelons of the epicurean experience, together with Xavier Thuizat (President of Kura Master; Chef Sommelier of Hotel Crillon) and Marco Pelletier (Vigneron at Domaine de Galouchey; Proprietor of Vantre, Paris).

– About the fascinating ways that sake and shochu are being incorporated into some of the U.S.’s best restaurants in a dialogue between Nobuo Fukuda (Chef at Teeter House), Sachiko Miyagi (Sake Expert at Tippsy Sake), Mutsuko Soma (Chef at Kamonegi; Owner of Hannyatou), David Schlosser (Chef at Shibumi), and Christopher Gomez (Beverage Director at Shibumi).

Thanks for tuning in this week. Please help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or your favorite service bringing you your podcasts. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.com with any thoughts, feelings or kind words about the show, or go  ahead and follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Don’t forget to subscribe to us over on YouTube, as well.

Thanks for choosing sake and shochu. Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Water, Wood, and Wild Things (and Sake!) with Hannah Kirshner

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In the past we’ve hosted episodes with a handful of non-Japanese individuals that have dedicated themselves to the work and lifestyle that comes along with being a kurabito (brewer) in Japan. We’ve even had a guest that’s been so deep in the game for so long that he’s approached toji status.

This week, however, we sit down for a sort of fireside chat with an inspiring and insightful young woman who not only committed herself to the rhythm of a sake brewery, but in doing so, made herself a part of the small mountain town that it resides in, and all that comes along with it.

Lucky for us, in Water, Wood & Wild Things, accomplished writer, artist and food stylist Hannah Kirshner was kind enough to document it for all of us, as well.

Scheduled to release on March 23rd via Viking, Hannah conveys her experiences in Yamanaka since 2015 in a manner that I’ve rarely experienced in books crafted to communicate an experience of life in Japan. Maybe it’s because the book isn’t really about Japan.

While in Yamanaka, Hannah has set up shop in a sake brewery, in this case Matsuura Shuzo, makers of Shishi no Sato brand sake, committed herself to apprenticing behind the bar with a borderline-obsessed sake evangelist and service professional, relentlessly pursued the “way” of tea, dedicated her time and energy to the lathe with a woodturning artisan of national acclaim, insistently pursued the inherent warmth in the craft of charcoal making, grown indoctrinated into the world of wild game hunting, and all of the other things you might imagine (and many you wouldn’t) that would accompany such a lifestyle and commitment.

Thankfully, there are a lot of books these days that focus with precision on what sake is. In Water, Wood & Wild Things, by shedding light on the ways in which the people of Yamanaka’s livelihood is interwoven into the fabric of their work, community, and hence their identity, we finally get a voice that shares with us why sake – and the ecosystem that it’s inseparable from – is important.

You can help new listeners discover Sake On Air by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or your favorite service for podcast enjoyment. Send us your thoughts at questions@sakeonair.com and follow along with us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. There’s also a lot of great sake and shochu-inspired programming over on YouTube.

We’ll be back with more Sake On Air very, very soon. March is going to be a busy month. You can thank us later.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.