Discover the Quality of Okayama: Bringing Sake to London
On 25th October, over 70 guests attended a day of sake events celebrating the true quality of Okayama.
As part of the Quality Okayama Japan project, three of Japan’s most-respected, experienced and sought-after brands came together to present Discover the Quality of Okayama.
All belonging to the Okayama Prefecture located in western Japan, Kikuchi Sake Brewery, Tsuji honten and Shiragiku Shuzo showcased their stunning sake lines that fuse traditional techniques with contemporary tastes.
Those in the business of serving, selling or simply sampling sake arrived at Yashin Ocean House, an elegant Japanese restaurant located in the heart of South Kensington, for an afternoon of assorted sake varieties and accompanying canapes.
As well as sampling sake from the three brewery’s product ranges, over 50 guests had the opportunity to learn more about high-quality Omachi rice, one of the key ingredients used to produce the high-quality sake that both Japan and the UK have come to love.
The event also showcased Bizen Ware, the popular and traditional Japanese pottery style that brings hundreds of years of Japan’s rich culture and style to London…in a cup, in fact. Guests were presented with their very own Bizen Ware sake cup to sample sake in and take home with them too.
The afternoon was a hive of activity, with guests having the opportunity to speak with the individual breweries to learn more about how they achieve the sake’s unique flavours and tastes.
Following an afternoon of sake sampling, producers and guests moved from the luxurious Yashin Ocean House on Gloucester Road to the equally exquisite Flat Three at Holland Park Avenue for a sumptuous seven-course tasting event.
Succulent dishes and unique ingredient combinations included sirloin with raw chocolate and black garlic, as well as carrot sorbet and sancho pepper. These were beautifully paired with a range of sakes, all chosen by the expert breweries.
“The awareness of sake is currently immature and so irrelevant of whether events such as these create sales, Discover the Quality of Okayama helps to raise awareness and encourage understanding, as well as enabling sake lovers to meet the brewers. It also gives people the opportunity to connect with sake and make it personal,” said Ollie Hilton-Johnson, Director, Sake Specialist and Distributor for Japanese brewery Tsuji Honten.
“Sake breweries have been importing sake for eight years and we have continued to experience steady growth. Those interested in sake are keen to expand their knowledge as their expectations of Omachi rice and demand for high-quality sake develops,” said Kasia Hitchcock, Importer, Kikuchi Sake Brewery.
Introducing the Okayama Breweries
Three of Okayama’s expert sake breweries presented their selection of delicious sake lines at Discover the Quality of Okayama.
Family-run Kikuchi Sake Brewery utilises the powerful and rare qualities of Omachi rice with the high-quality and established master skills of traditional Bitchu-style sake production to produce unique, broad and mild sake flavours. The brewery, which started making sake in 1878, has the motto ‘quality oriented’, and continues to make this its highest priority when producing sake in the traditional Japanese style.
Kikuchi Sake Brewery successfully achieves this by ensuring that its commitment to quality and passion is at the heart of every bottle of sake it produces. The brewery’s Sanzen range is described as a “delicious and crisp sake that one won’t forgetting after drinking it just once”. Thanks to its progressive spirit, the sake producer has received a variety of awards in both Japan and overseas for its unique flavours and tastes.
“Kikuchi Sake Brewery is visiting the UK for the first time and it has been an incredibly successful event. It has provided us with the opportunity to meet potential customers and showcase our product range. We have received a highly positive response, which is very reassuring,” said Ms Kasia Hitchcock, Importer, Kikuchi Sake Brewery. “It has been wonderful to meet representatives from the Japanese government and those who support sake import efforts to continue to build relationships.”
The first brewery to team master skills with eastern Bodai Moto eclectic tastes and production styles, Tsuji honten has embraced contemporary processes and ingredient combinations to create exciting brand lines that feature both rich and light flavours to suit any dish and occasion.
The brewery is led by master brewer – known as ‘Toji’ – Maiko Tsuji, the sister of Soichiro Tsuji, and represents the 7th generation of the sake family. Since 1970, the brewery has continued to brew its ever-popular “junmaishu” sake – a pure rice sake with no alcohol – which now makes up 70% of the brewery’s entire production.
“It’s about turning sake into an experience, ” added Ollie Hilton-Johnson, Director, Sake Specialist and Distributor for Japanese brewery Tsuji Honten.
Named after Japan’s national flower, Shiragiku Shuzo, marries the traditional pressing method, ‘fune-shibori’, with modern processes and styles to create a busty, soft taste characteristic.
Attendees sampled five of the family-run brewers selection of sake from its Taiten Shiragiku Junmai product range. Using Omachi, Shiragiku and Mikinishiki rice,the range’s polishing rates – which dictate the flavours created – range from 50% – 70%.
As both sake and Shiragiku ripen and bloom in the autumn, Shiragiku Shuzo, provides the perfect nod to the high-quality and stunning flavour combinations that come from the distinct and delicious Taiten Shiragiku Junmai product range.
The Quality Okayama Project
The Quality Okayama project, which hails from the Okayama Prefecture, otherwise known as the the ‘Sunshine Country’, introduces various traditional industries that are both established and innovative. Omachi rice is one of the leading products and accounts for 90% of Japan’s market share for brewing sake.
The amount of time and effort that is invested, along with the decades of experience and expertise and the history of the Okayama production process, comes together to produce unique and sumptuous flavours. The feedback was extremely positive and highlighted the support and opportunity available in the UK for sake lovers.
A Big Thank You
A special thank you to Kikuchi Sake Brewery, Tsuji honten and Shiragiku Shuzo for showcasing their stunning sake ranges and providing sake lovers with an in-depth understanding on how these are brewed.
The event provided the opportunity to promote Okayama’s speciality rice and sake and Bizen Ware pottery. The Japanese food and drink industry has experienced rapid growth, and so by coupling Okayama’s long-held techniques with contemporary ideologies, breweries are becoming flexible craftsmen that are increasingly serving sake lovers here in the UK.
If you would like any further information on the sake ranges or event, please contact Satomi Okubo, Event Host for Discover the Quality of Okayama and Director of Enshu at email@example.com