You perhaps didn’t know there is an archipelago of small islands called
Okinawa in a subtropical sea in the south of Japan. And you will be surprised
to know that these islands make an amazing aged spirit called “awamori”
that has one of the world’s greatest histories and diversities.
The longer it ages, the sweeter and mellower it gets, bringing an
indescribable flavor and a deep joy. With nothing else to add flavor, it ages
on its own to create a pure, intense taste that surpasses your imagination.
What would you do when you want to become closer to someone? If you’re a spirits lover, it is quite obvious—a good drink. Drinking and talking together makes your friendships much closer and that is a universal law everywhere, but what’s more, if your drink tastes delicious unlike any other, it will be even better.
Once upon a time in Southeast Asia, there was a kingdom called the Ryukyu Kingdom, currently Okinawa, which was at the height of its glory in the Age of Commerce between the end of the 14th century and the 16th century. The kingdom, despite being a small county, thrived on trade as the center of commerce for the Asian region. Distilling techniques were introduced from Thailand through the trade and that led to the birth of super long-aged sake “awamori.” It’s said that, offered to foreign dignitaries as a special gift, awamori received a high reputation from them.
In this manner, awamori established its position as “royal spirit,” greatly contributed to their “omotenashi” (hospitality diplomacy) and brought such a small kingdom peace and prosperity for 450 years. Nothing but the peaceful time preserved and developed the culture of awamori to become a super long-aged sake.
It’s said that, if not lost in the war, there would have been 300-year-old awamori. (300 years! Have you ever seen such an ultra long-aged sake?) It’s possible because awamori ages on its own. While whiskeys, tequilas, and many other barrel-aged liquors don’t age so much after bottling, awamori does age well. That is why awamori is so special. The long-aged awamori with a deeper and richer flavor eventually turns into high-quality old sake, locally known as “kusu (aged awamori).” That long slept-on awamori wakes up slowly. If you have a chance to try kusu, take it slow and enjoy the change of the taste sip by sip.
Absolute rare “black koji mold”
Thai rice, a raw material for awamori, is converted into sugar by back koji mold and this is one of the significant differences of awamori from other liquors, because black koji mold generates a great amount of citric acid in the manufacturing process that prevents bacteria from spoiling the ingredients even under the Okinawa’s warm-humid climate. As a result, it allows traditional awamori to minimize its filtration, retaining various kinds of “umami” components in the spirit. This “umami” turns into flavor over the long aging and brings out a mellow richness and a sweet aroma.
Put awamoris of three different ages—called the parent, second, and third sake—into three clay pots, respectively.
After a couple of years, the parent sake (the oldest one) will be served on occasions after a tasting.
Adding the amount consumed or evaporated to the parent one from the second one and to the second one from the third one, and the third one will be filled with a younger awamori.
In this manner, they maintain the blending ratio as a whole, which can continue over a few hundred years, to enjoy kusu without losing its fragrant flavor. It’s said that this technique can only be seen in sherry and awamori among all liquors in the world.
In the past, Okinawan famous families handed over their kusu to the next generation through the “shitsugi” method from parents to children. Wishing for happiness and prosperity, it was cherished as a family treasure—and the taste must have been superb!
-Born 1985 in Okinawa.
-Took over as manager of Awamori Souko in 2009.
-Awarded gold two years in a row, scoring 100% on the final exam, at the Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association Tasting Competition.
-Discusses the pleasures of awamori on the radio, and writes an awamori column for the newspaper, to help others discover the spirit.
-Holds awamori seminars at companies and resort hotels nationwide ・Held awamori seminars at that Japanese Embassy in Beijing and at Lotte World in Seoul in 2019 by request from Okinawa Prefecture.
-Founder for Mixology Group and Spirits&Sharing.inc.
-Date of Birth: 25th, November,1980
-One of the best Japanese Mixologists who creates totally new cocktails, using sophisticated techniques and equipments.
-Entered the bar industry at Bar X-Marks the spot, Ikebukuro in 1998. Having experiences at various kinds of bars in Tokyo and went to U.K. on July, 2006 for a year to prepare for starting a business. Working at Nobu London in Metropolitan Hotel and traveling around Europe to explore the bar culture. Then returning to Japan on Aug, 2007. After working at XEX Atago on Sep, 2007, performed a setup in XEX Tokyo on Jan, 2007 as a head bartender.
-Established Spirits&Sharing.inc on Jan, 2009.
If you visit Okinawa, you will find breathtaking views all around the prefecture.
With a subtropical oceanic climate,
the archipelago is surrounded by the ocean with beautiful coral reefs.
The sun shines energetically and the plants are deep green—it’s just so dense with life.
Out of nowhere, a nice sea breeze blows, bringing huge cumulonimbus clouds.
The rain falls to quench the thirst of all lives living on the island.
The beautiful nature provides plenty of minerals to Okinawa’s water.
Awamori is polished by that water full of vitality.
We believe that all the aspiring spirits enthusiasts around the world will be intrigued by awamori after knowing and experiencing it. So we will give a presentation at the BCB’s webinar with the presenter, “Awamori Jinbner.”
“Jinbun” means “wisdom” in the Okinawan dialect, and a “Awamori Jinbner” is someone who will spread the beauty of awamori with wisdom across the world.
Fascinated by awamori, they have learned its history and culture, the unique ingredients and methods, and a variety of ways of enjoying and tasting it, and are qualified for the title. So far, there are only seven Awamori Jinbners in the world.
The awamori specialist will show you the world of awamori that brims with originality, and you will surely be attracted to a joy you never experienced before.
Start your new quest
with the untamed spirit, AWAMORI
Billy Abbott is a drinks writer, presenter and educator with a love for spirits. Formerly a computer programmer, he swapped code for words and has spent the last decade spreading his enthusiasm for fine drinks around the world. He is the drinks ambassador and head of training for top retailer The Whisky Exchange, and occasionally finds time to teach, judge awards, consult, write about booze and run Whisky Squad, a London-based whisky club. He is also fond of hat.