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The launch of Sake

With Japanese eateries popping up across London, we're delighted to introduce our revamped sake portfolio, which includes a handpicked selection of sake from some of Japan's oldest, quality-focused breweries.

Sake has been part of Japanese culture for more than 2000 years; however, in the west there are still many misconceptions surrounding it. For example, contrary to popular belief, sake is not a wine or a spirit; it’s actually closer to beer as it’s brewed from rice – the usual alcoholic strength ranges between 13% and 17% ABV, which also means it's a fantastic base for cocktails.

The Market

There are roughly 1300 breweries in Japan: 15 are massive and responsible for 55% of total production, 200 are medium, and 60% are tiny. The vast majority of these are family owned.

While domestic consumption has been decreasing, according to the Japanese Ministry of Finance, Japanese Sake exports have increased 89% by volume and 288% by value since 1995. The US is a well-developed market where Japanese cuisine became popular in the 1970s; however, it’s only become mainstream in the UK in more recent times.

America accounts for 27% of all Japanese sake exports by volume and 36% by value. Export to the US has increased 7.5% per year since 2000, and sake bars are common in urban hotspots such as Los Angeles and New York. In Singapore, where a small group of sake professionals and chefs are sparking a sake revolution, export of Japanese Sake almost tripled in the past 20 years. There are good reasons to believe that London will follow in the footsteps of New York.

It’s difficult to determine the total volume bought in the UK, as sake doesn’t have its own unique import commodity code. However, research from Bibendum shows that the UK Sake market has expanded by a whopping 240% in the last 10 years. What’s more, the UK is the biggest European market, and in 2014 we were the ninth largest importer of Japanese Sake by value.

According to sake consultant Barry McCaughley, 2014 was the year in the UK when sake “came away from Japanese restaurant wine lists, and into restaurants of all types”, such as Chiltern Firehouse and Gavroche.

The Breweries 

Our all-new range includes a variety of sakes, each distinctly different from the other. Old, traditional, family-owned breweries, covering different styles ranging from the fruity and aromatic styles of the north, to the rich and earthy styles of the south. Whether they’re using traditional methods of production, top quality soft water, or locally-grown rice, the focus is the same: quality.

line-up 1. Fukukomachi Daiginjo Hidden Glade, Kimura Shuzo 

Tasting note: Hidden Glade presents bright and full aromas of green apple, melon and cucumber. It is velvety and light-bodied with defined structure resulting in a neat, precise, fruity and elegant sake. Superbly refreshing.

2. Fukukomachi Junmai Karakuchi Evening Sky, Kimura Shuzo 

Tasting note: Light and subtle aromas of strawberry and creamy rice with a mineral, crisp and dry structure and mild body. Acidity seems pronounced due to the dryness but, when warmed, acidity mellows and notes of fresh grass, vanilla and oats develop. Simple and easy to drink.

3. Gozenshu Futsushu Ancient Mountain, Tsuji Honten 

Tasting note: Delicious and warming, this sake has notes of sweet cereal, soy and mushrooms on the nose, with smooth & creamy rice flavours resulting in a rich, medium-bodied sake with light acidity.

4. Gozenshu Junmai Bodaimoto Nigori Misty Mountain, Tsuji Honten

Tasting note: A fresh fragrance and a vivid flavour with notes of zesty lemon, passion fruit & pepper with a slightly thick mouthfeel, and a long and peppery aftertaste.

5. Konishi Silver Ginjo Hiyashibori, Konishi Shuzo 

Tasting note: Light-bodied with lower alcohol, low acidity and a delicate fragrance resulting in a very silky and elegant Ginjo. Fragrance is a breeze of fresh, refreshing, flowers with a subtle touch of gingerbread. Gripping, inviting and extremely easy to drink.

6. Shirayuki Edo Genroku Redux, Konishi Shuzo

Tasting note: Rich, bold & absorbing, this sake has notes of nuts, dried fruits, fig, brown sugar, liquorice & soy. Sweet, devilishly delicious & with buckets of umami and a long, lingering finish.

7. Kodakara Nanko Umeshu, Tatenokawa Shuzo 

Tasting note: A rich & sweet flavour perfectly balancing the tartness of the plums. Kodakara Umeshu is best served chilled and straight up, on the rocks, or with soda. It also makes an excellent cocktail ingredient.

8. Gozenshu 9 Yuzushu Sake, Tsuji Honten

Cloudy and yellow in colour with a vivid aroma of ripe yuzu fruit.  Rich, sweet yet balanced marmalade flavours with a long, pronounced finish. Suitable as an aperitif, dessert sake or cocktail ingredient.

If you'd like to find out more about our new sake range, please get in touch with your Account Manager.