News site Jiji.com carries a press release announcing round 2 of Nihonshu Nyumon (日本酒入門) – an introduction to sake from the company Warehouse Japan. [The first round was announced in August 2020 and looks identical.]

The service ships samples and a textbook to serve as an introduction to people who are interested in sake and want to find out more. The promotional text claims that we’re now in the midst of the greatest upsurge in popularity for sake ever [really? Cite your sources…] and that this set gives people an easy way to start enjoying sake.

The set is aimed at people who are already interested in sake but find the idea of going out and ordering it intimidating, or don’t know enough to buy with confidence – basically someone who likes sake but finds it hard to understand. The textbook explains the history and flavours of sake for readers to enjoy while consolidating their learning by drinking.

The set costs JPY 6,500 (before tax and shipping) and samples included are:

  • Fumigiku Shuzō (Toyama Prefecture) junmai daiginjō Haneya (100 ml)
  • Kiyashō Shuzō (Mie Prefecture) junmai ginjō Jikon (50 ml)
  • Honda Shōten (Hyogo Prefecture) kimoto junmai Tatsuriki (100 ml)
  • Miyoshino Jōzō (Hyogo Prefecture) yamahai junmai Hanatomoe WHJ COLLECTION 2901004 (100 ml)
  • Yamamoto / Akita / Kuribayashi / Fukurokuju / Aramasa (Akita Prefecture) NEXT FIVE [joint product from five Akita breweries] THE HARVEST 2017 (50 ml)

As well as the textbook, the set also has an ochoko and a badge to show you’ve completed the tasting set and have the textbook.

The instructors are Shibuya Bar Library’s Noritsugu Nakamura and Yukiya Shiraishi, and the textbook is edited by Yasuhiro Ohara of Chiba University.

Nakamura, born in Kanagawa Prefecture, is a bartender at the BAR Library, columnist, kikisake-shi, bar/restaurant consultant, ambassador for the Mexican sake brand Nami and Sake Director. After working in the hospitality industry, he exported sake, wrote articles, worked at Nami and also in new product planning. He has organised events and exported sake to Europe, Hong Kong and the US.

His project, “BAR is a school for adults” [BARは大人の学校, BAR ha otona no gakko, with the amusing tagline “All I really need to know I learned in BAR”], publishes sake-related material written by working bartenders, bar and restaurant owners and others from the hospitality industry as well as selling small-volume sake tasting sets. They also offer introductions to bartending and aim to promote drinks that are not well known outside of Japan.

Another aim of the project is supporting bars and retailers affected by the pandemic, and supporting the continued existence and development of sake culture. Recommended sake are split into smaller sizes by Warehouse Japan to use as tasting sets.

Warehouse Japan works with small, talented kuramoto [蔵元, brewery owners] all over the country to encourage brewing of sake suited to long-term storage and maturation.

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I was particularly interested in this article as I run a workshop called Introduction to Sake, and even nihonshu nyumon when I talk about it in Japanese. It’s always fun to see what other people think is a good introductory set and to figure out what their thinking is behind the selection.

My workshop looks at milling ratio/tokutei meisho (the “premium” grades, illustrated by daiginjō/ginjō/junmai/honjōzō) and then at processing (pasteurisation/nama, in-bottle second fermentation/sparkling, lees/nigori, ageing/koshu).

By contrast, this set pays some attention to milling ratio/tokutei meisho (“premium” grades) but also to types of yeast starter (kimoto/yamahai) which I don’t cover. So lots to think about in terms of what might be best as an introductory set!

(There’s also the fact that the NEXT5 is sold out, there might be an element of scarcity too.)

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The translations/summaries of Japanese language news articles and other content provided on this site are part of a personal project to increase the amount of information about Japanese sake available in English.

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