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SAKETIMES NEWS – Jan 14, 2020

In the news this week: The most highly-evaluated sake breweries around the world come together in the 2019 World Sakagura Ranking. Then, Okinawa may be in danger of losing touch with its traditional drink of aged awamori. Finally, many residents of Kumamoto city ring in the new year with a warm sake bath.

Top Sake Breweries of the 2019 World Sakagura Ranking Announced

On January 8, the results of the 2019 World Sakagura Ranking were announced. These rankings show the most highly-evaluated sake breweries at competitions around the world along with their noted brands.

The World Sakagura Ranking works sort of like a review aggregator and awards breweries points depending on their performance in six major sake competitions: The Japan Sake Awards; the Kan Sake Awards; the Fine Sake Awards, Japan; Kura Master;the International Wine Challenge; and the Sake Competition. For example, getting the highest award in most of these exhibitions will earn the brewery 50 points, whereas a special prize or honorable mention might be worth 5 to 10 points.

First place this year went to Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten in Mie Prefecture, followed by Watanabe Sake Brewery in Gifu Prefecture – the only other producer to get over 1,000 points this year. Third place went to Hachinohe Shuzo in Aomori Prefecture.

Each contest hold blind tastings so that the World Sakagura Ranking can ignore marketing and focus solely on appreciation of taste both in Japan and around the world. This way, it hopes to be a guide for people trying to navigate the wide and diverse world of sake.

Crucially, while it benefits brewers in the World Sakagura Ranking to submit their brews in as many contests as possible throughout the year, only submissions that follow the guidelines of each contest are considered. This makes the World Sakagura Ranking for each brewery one of the best barometers of sake quality available.

All in all there are 50 slots in the ranking chosen from 654 breweries.

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LINK: 47NEWS | 2019/12/26 | 醸す技、堂々8位 西条の石鎚酒造 日本酒「世界酒蔵ランク」

Nearly Half of Okinawans Don’t Know How to Age Awamori

The Okinawa branch of the National Tax Office released the results of a survey asking over 3,000 residents of the tropical prefecture how familiar they were with the area’s traditional drink, awamori.

Awamori is a type of distilled beverage made with rice and mold different than that of sake. Furthermore, it’s aged in special clay jars in a process known as “shitsugi” to create kusu – or “aged alcohol” in the Okinawan dialect. It’s a production method unique to Okinawa, but as the survey found, the tradition might be slipping away.

According to the survey, 46.2% of respondents didn’t even know the meaning of “shitsugi.” On the other hand, about 30% of those surveyed said that they owned a clay jar for shitsugi, and half of those owned two or more, with some possessing up to 10.

Only 19.3% of jar owners actually used them for aging awamori, though, whereas 30% answered that they never use the vessels because they either didn’t know how or because it took too much time.

The Tax Office concluded that in addition to awareness raising, more guidance is needed to keep this cultural practice alive for future generations. Hopefully they can find a way so that more people can enjoy this distinctive taste of Okinawa.

LINK: 沖縄タイムス+プラス | 2019/12/13 | 「仕次知らない」46% 家庭でできる泡盛の伝統的熟成方法

Kumamoto Residents Ring in New Year with Sake Baths

On January 2, five bathhouses in Kumamoto City offered a special sake bath for the tradition of hatsuyu, or “first bath of the year.” Participants took baths two by two with two cups of sake such as Higo no Sato by Chiyonosono Brewery added to the water.

The health benefits of bathing in sake are well-documented. The drink’s many chemical components, such as ferulic acid, amino acids, and adenosine, are said to help keep skin soft and healthy and help promote good circulation. In fact, pure sake (without additives) can even be used as an effective moisturizer when spritzed on dry hands, leaving no residue or alcoholic smell.

LINK: 朝日新聞デジタル | 2020/01/03 | 熊本)「初湯を楽しんで」 熊本市の5銭湯で「酒風呂」

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