Drink consumers are always looking for the next big thing, the next trend that will come along and transform the industry with new flavours and experiences. I believe the new frontier lies in sake and shochu. Both categories are becoming increasingly known in the western market through the tireless efforts of educators, ambassadors, retailers, restaurateurs and enthusiasts.
The world of sake and shochu is exciting and innovative, with many passionate people linked by a love for what they do. This passion was on full display at the Sake Future Summit 2020, which brought together sake professionals from across the globe for a dialogue on how sake can take over the world.
Brewers, sommeliers and connoisseurs unite
Hosted by the brilliant Sake On Air podcast, the Sake Summit was all about showcasing Japan’s national drinks to a wider audience across multiple sectors and conversations. The podcast hosts went on a journey across the world, examining the state of the sake industry in countries like France, Spain, Germany and the UK.
The insights that came out of each discussion were fascinating. For example, koshu (aged) sake was identified as a popular choice in Spain, while the bulk of UK’s sake sales come from London and the unique community that has been built up over time.
In Germany, sake is being elevated by the likes of DJ Richie Hawtin and his new Sake 36 concept. In Singapore, there’s a growing community of nihonshu fans that is only sure to increase in the coming years. Take a trip to the US and you’ll find a multitude of sake brewers who’re leaving their own mark on the industry and coming up with new ways to market to customers.
Japanese brewers also provided fascinating insights on topics such as sustainability, helping out local communities and the stories behind their products. Some great discussions included an interview with the president of Gekkeikan brewery, Taiji Okura and the idea of a traditional brewery being managed in a non-traditional way with Yasutaka Daimon at Daimon brewery.
Shochu and awamori got their time in the sun with a series of epic talks presided over by the likes of Christopher Pellegrini, Justin Potts and more. Some of my favourite webinars involved comparing barley shochu to Japanese whisky and the craft of sweet potato shochu.
The former compared the similarities and difference between the spirits, while the latter showed a tour of the Yamato Zakura distillery and demonstrated how sweet potato shochu is made.
Another great webinar involved a discussion about awamori with the CEO of the Chuko distillery Tsutomu Oshiro. Awamori is often lumped in with shochu yet it is its own unique category due to how it’s produced. Oshiro-san was gracious enough to take the viewer on a virtual tour, showing how the distillery makes the clay pots that are key to awamori maturation and offering his knowledge on how Chuko creates its bottles.
Connected by passion
Despite coming from different backgrounds, every panellist and speaker was united by their love of sake. They were connected through their passion for a drink that transcends everything it touches.
Pulling off a global summit during a pandemic is impressive. But when you’re able to bring experts together for an event that’s never been done before that’s a sign that things are changing for the better. It’s a sign that sake is on the rise and will continue to increase in popularity and that the future is bright.
The Sake Future Summit 2020 was a huge success and I can’t wait for the next one. You can watch all the talks below.