May 7, 2021


The fine art of fashion

Aged like high-quality wine? Reviving the neglected society of vintage sake

Great wine is not the only issue that receives far better with age, and a venture firm hopes to establish that by reviving the extended-overlooked culture of Japan’s homegrown classic sake.

Considering the fact that launching Takumi Sousei Inc., Akihiko Yasumura has contacted about 1,000 breweries throughout Japan and visited far more than 100 to find the best aged sake to rebrand less than the significant-stop Inishie no Bishu label.

“It is really the exact as scouting star expertise, you are finding some possible that has been lying dormant, and you’re selling it by changing the way you existing it,” stated Yasumura.

As a previous profession consultant at big Japanese staffing organization Pasona Inc., Yasumura experienced encountered numerous artisans who had to give up their passion in order to make a living. Experience it was a squander of talent, the 41-year-outdated started wondering of techniques to help these men and women to proceed chasing their desires.

Takumi Sousei was at first recognized in 2017 with a concentration on supporting artisans operating in classic Japanese arts and crafts, but by the stop of 2018 the firm pivoted to the vintage sake marketplace, which was viewed to have additional progress probable.

Vintage sake, which is recognised as koshu in Japanese and will come in a assortment of intricate flavors and aromas, does not have an precise definition but typically refers to any Japanese distilled spirits that have been aged more than a yr.

Takumi Sousei has so considerably contracted tanks with aged sake at 45 breweries throughout Japan to sell beneath its unified brand, which Yasumura claims is the only of its type in the place. Pretty much all of the fine range of sake sold below the brand has matured for at the very least 10 decades in a brewery.

“Classic sake has been left sleeping in tanks at breweries, but we are waking them up now with our production,” mentioned Yasumura.

Akihiko Yasumura, founder and CEO of Takumi Sousei Inc., retains a classic sake set marketed beneath the company’s Inishie no Bishu manufacturer. | COURTESY OF TAKUMI SOUSEI INC. / By way of KYODO

In accordance to Yasumura, just one of the motives why classic sake, as soon as a high quality liquor drunk at weddings in the Imperial House, sank into obscurity for in excess of half a century is due to the fact of the significant tax that was levied on breweries throughout the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

The governing administration at that time needed breweries to fork out tax just for the privilege of brewing, even before any sake experienced been marketed. This meant there was no incentive for breweries to retail outlet sake for maturation, as it had to be marketed as quickly as attainable to go over significant manufacturing charges.

Also diverting public interest from classic sake was the advancement of rice milling technology, which enabled shinshu — just-pressed new sake that has been left sitting down for less than a calendar year — to style refined despite a shorter maturation interval.

With the abolition of the brewing tax process in 1944, a change to the payment of levies after sake had transported and the institution of an association in 1985 by breweries, distributors and others to revive and investigation aged sake, desire has steadily returned.

Yasumura reported awareness of classic sake has elevated due to the fact the start of the Inishie no Bishu brand name, with far more and extra significant-stop lodge eating places and bars incorporating items from the lineup to their menus.

“You can appreciate vintage sake just like wine. Up right up until now, it has been regarded as a thing you only drink ahead of or after a meal, but that is incorrect. You can drink it with your food,” reported Yasumura, incorporating that he hopes classic sake will obtain the similar significant-conclusion name as whisky and wine.

The firm’s supreme goal is to enhance the market for Japan’s classic lifestyle industry both equally domestically and internationally, generating it so lucrative that artisans will sense motivated to pass on their crafts for generations to appear.

The front entrance of the Kawashiri Sake Brewery in Hida Takayama, Gifu Prefecture | COURTESY OF THE KAWASHIRI SAKE BREWERY / VIA KYODO
The entrance entrance of the Kawashiri Sake Brewery in Hida Takayama, Gifu Prefecture | COURTESY OF THE KAWASHIRI SAKE BREWERY / Through KYODO

Iwase Syuzo Corp., which was established in 1723 in Chiba Prefecture, was on the verge of going out of company prior to collaborating with Takumi Sousei. Inspite of the brewery’s wealthy history and its aged sake profitable a platinum award at an international competitors for fantastic wines, manufacturer recognition was typically low.

“The Japan Prestige Sake Affiliation praised our vintage sake as ‘impeccably excellent,’ but there was no market for it. So we have nothing but many thanks for Takumi Sousei’s honest initiative,” stated Tomonori Shono, the brewery’s chairman and CEO.

The brewery’s 1983 vintage sake Iwanoi, manufactured with mineral-wealthy h2o from its well, is the oldest underneath the initial collection lineup of the Inishie no Bishu manufacturer.

“Food items that are not usually related with sake, this kind of as sauteed foie gras or fried abalone with butter garlic, taste remarkable when paired with vintage sake. I want men and women not just in Japan but from all all-around the world to know this,” claimed Shono.

The Kawashiri Sake Brewery, launched in 1839 in the Hida Takayama spot, commenced to specialize in aged sake from the 1960s but like Iwase Syuzo struggled to distribute its solutions as there was only a modest current market for these kinds of a drink in Japan.

Hideo Kawashiri, the seventh-technology president of the loved ones-owned and operated brewery in Gifu Prefecture, was approached by Takumei Sousei in late 2019 and decided the company’s proposal was a good enterprise possibility.

After contracting two tanks to the business, the brewery’s 2001 and 1998 vintage sake are now mentioned beneath the Inishie no Bishu label.

“I like earning matters, but I’m not very very good at providing them. So I am extremely grateful to (Takumi Sousei) for advertising my vintage sake,” the 53-12 months-outdated stated.

Tanks for aging sake at Iwase Syuzo Corp. in Chiba Prefecture | COURTESY OF IWASE SYUZO CORP. / VIA KYODO
Tanks for ageing sake at Iwase Syuzo Corp. in Chiba Prefecture | COURTESY OF IWASE SYUZO CORP. / Through KYODO

Kawashiri explained his brewery saw quite a few overseas holidaymakers prior to the pandemic, with “Westerners from nations with a wine society more inclined to obtain.” The United States, Australia, France and Italy ended up named, between other folks.

Although vintage sake offered less than Inishie no Bishu can be bought on the web by means of its formal site, curious newcomers to the environment of Japanese distilled spirits could sense a lot more at ease viewing its tasting bar and shop in Tokyo’s Otemachi small business district before building a alternative.

A choice of Inishie no Bishu classic sake can also be sampled at a restaurant bar and shop that opened late very last year on Awaji Island, Hyogo Prefecture, where by Takumi Sousei is headquartered.

In the foreseeable future, Yasumura hopes to have artisans create conventional products and solutions, this kind of as Edo minimize glass cups and sanada-himo woven items, to accompany sets of classic sake, hence supporting a variety of artisanal industries at the exact same time.

“I want people (all over the world) to know that classic sake is section of Japan’s traditional society,” mentioned Yasumura. “And all our classic sake has been thoroughly selected, so it genuinely preferences good.”

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the federal government is strongly requesting that inhabitants and readers exercising warning if they decide on to stop by bars, dining establishments, music venues and other public spaces.

In a time of the two misinformation and much too significantly details, excellent journalism is much more critical than at any time.
By subscribing, you can assistance us get the story suitable.


Photograph GALLERY (Click on TO ENLARGE)