What’s AWAMORI JINBNER?
The Okinawa Distillers Association provides a special curriculum to acquire knowledge of the history and
culture of awamori, its unique raw materials and manufacturing methods, and various ways of enjoying the
taste, and appoints those who finished the curriculum as “Awamori Jinbner.”
Jinbun means wisdom in the Okinawan dialect, so the title implies the meaning of those who spread the beauty of awamori with wisdom across the world.
We aim to develop and produce human resources for Awamori Jinbner both at home and abroad and to disseminate information about awamori to spread its beauty across the world.
AWAMORI JINBNER Credo
We cherish the pride within the awamori culture preserved and developed by Okinawan predecessors, and going across the seas, the borders, and generations, we create bonds between people and share the beauty of awamori that brings joy with the world.
- 1. Acquire deep understandings of Okinawan spirit “awamori.”
- 2. Convey and spread the deliciousness and beauty of awamori across the world.
- 3. Understand the terroir of awamori and let people around the world experience it.
- 4. Inherit the Okinawa’s “mind of valuing courtesy” that has developed awamori.
- 5. Connect new and loving people through awamori and
contribute to making the world a calmer and more peaceful place.
AWAMORI JINBNER Inauguration
2020 marks the first year of the project and we offered our special curriculum to those with deep knowledge in different food and beverage cultures around the world, including the spirits instructors of WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) in the UK and North America. This time, eleven graduates (North America: 4, UK: 7) acquired deeper knowledge of awamori and were appointed as Awamori Jinbner.
During the curriculum
Kellie Thorn has been in the restaurant industry for nearly twenty years and bartending for the last
seventeen. Kellie, born in Atlanta and raised in various cities along the Southern coast, has
received considerable critical recognition for her talents and skills. In 2010, Kellie joined forces
with star chef Hugh Acheson to open Empire State South, Acheson’s vibrant reimagination of
traditional southern fare, to develop a creative program balanced by a reverent nod to the classics.
Her success in this role led her to the position of Beverage Director for Acheson’s restaurants in
Kellie is highly committed to furthering her education in spirits and wine, she has taken and passed the Introductory Course for Court of Sommeliers, participated in and passed the reputed BAR Five Day program in New York and most recently participated in the WSET Level Three Award in Spirits and received a Pass with Distinction. She believes that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’, and she has turned her attention to utilizing her knowledge base to educate her peers. Kellie is a BNIC Certified Cognac Educator, passing the Certification in Cognac France in April 2015, as well as a WSET Certified Level Three Spirits Educator. She has been a panelist for educational seminars at Tales of the Cocktail, Bar Convent Brooklyn, and Bev Con.
Kellie is also very involved in her local community as well as the broader hospitality community. She has served on the Advisory Council for Atlanta Food and Wine, helped to organize annual charity events for Wholesome Wave Georgia and Community Farmer’s Market, and is currently serving on the Grants Committee for the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation
In 2017 she was awarded the Les Dames D’Escoffier Legacy Award, and in 2018 she was named one of Wine Enthusiasts 40 under 40 Tastemakers.
Nick Korn is a life-long student and self-identified nerd; with a background in anthropology, and an addiction to travel, he brings an academic lens to eating and drinking the world over. A dedicated professional in the bar industry in Boston for over a decade, he has pursued study—both in the classroom and in the field—into the ways that food and beverage tie into larger themes of human experience. A fierce advocate for his community, Nick currently owns and manages OFFSITE, a boutique experiential marketing and strategy firm focused on changing paradigms in the liquor industry. Nick believes that education and professional development are the cornerstone of the elevation of this industry. Nick self-identifies as a bartender and isn't ready to be put out to pasture yet: in more normal times, you can find Nick opening beers and making drinks behind his friends' bars.
＊Please note, all use of the photo should be accompanied with proper attribution, as follows: "©Caitlin Cunningham, 2017" If you have any questions about usage, I can link you up with Caitlin, the photographer who owns the image.
Christina was chosen as one of Imbibe Magazine’s 2019 Imbibe 75, selected as one of the 50 under 40 future influencers of the global drinks industry by WSET and IWSC and #44 by Drink's Internationals 2020 Bar World list. She has occupied every front-of-house position (and a couple in the kitchen) while pursuing certifications in wine and beer and winning cocktail competitors. Currently, she is Director of Programming for Toronto Cocktail Week, a Bar & Beverage Curator for Restaurants Canada, a national co-ordinator for Speed Rack Canada, a Spirits Educator with WSET and a consultant. Over the course of the last few years, she has been able to harness her skills while raising over $100k for charities, with a strong focus on womxn (especially WOC), LGBTQ communities, and food insecurity. Christina is highly recognized as an influential leader in the beverage industry and continues to leverage her platform and valuable experience to build out workshops and programing around rethinking hospitality - especially its management - in ways that centre intersectionality, empathy and safety as guiding business principles.
Certified Master Sake & Shochu Sommelier, Certified Sake Educator. Born in Japan where his family
has grown Japanese wine grape, Koshu, for generations, Toshio grew up helping the business from a
young age. Following his college education in the US and employment at an international trading
company in Tokyo, Toshio joined Chateraise, a pastry and wine company as Director of Sales. There,
he was put in charge of overseeing the personal wine collection of the company’s president, which
intrigued him to enter the world of wine stewardship and research.
Toshio joined Mutual Trading Company in 2002, where he is Director of Sake Specialist Division in marketing Japanese foods, Jizake, and Shochu to the mainstream American trade. With his passion and expertise in Jizake, Shochu, and Wine, Toshio aims to further promote Japanese food and Sake cultures to new, international audiences.
Toshio Ueno was awarded with the prestigious title of Sake Samurai in 2016. He is the only one in the world to hold Master of Sake, Master Sake Sommelier, and a WSET Sake Educator diploma. Since 2010, Toshio has been the Vice President & Executive Instructor at Sake School of America and continues to judge some of the top wine and spirits competitions in the U.S. and internationally.
Antony is the Qualifications Director for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), where he has worked since 2004. His current role covers all aspects of WSET qualifications in wine, spirits, sake and beer. He manages three teams, covering the resources for students and educators, the examinations, and the translations of WSET qualifications into up to 15 languages. He previously oversaw the development of WSET’s Level 1 and Level 3 Awards in Sake, and in 2014 was inaugurated as a Sake Samurai by the Sake and Shochu Makers Association in recognition of this work. He also researched and authored the chapters on Shochu, Baijiu and Soju for the WSET Level 3 Award in Spirits, and has presented sessions and events focusing on Shochu and Awamori in the UK, the USA and Japan.
Antony joined the wine and spirits industry in 1998, completed his WSET Diploma in 2003 and became a Master of Wine in 2011. By coincidence, he won the Austrian Wine Marketing Board Prize for both qualifications -fortunately he enjoys Zierfandler and Blauer Wildbacher when not drinking shochu, awamori or sake.
Outside of work, Antony enjoys listening to and playing classical piano music, especially 20th Century composers such as Schoenberg, Ives, Messiaen and Janacek.
Born in 1982 in the family that has been running a Sake brewery in Akita, and a Buddhist temple in Toyama prefecture, both on north-west side of Japan where is nourished with the best ingredients from the mountain and the ocean. Her Sake journey, to trace the path of her family roots, had started in 2009. Natsuki had worked in the well-known sake retail shop called Hasegawa Saketen in Tokyo, then as a “Sake sommelier” at Zuma & Roka restaurants in London, UK. In 2013, she had launched “Museum of Sake”, an agency to provide education and promotion of the craft of sake, connecting Japan to the UK and Europe through a range of special events and courses for the wider public and food industry. In 2014, together with Antony Moss MW at Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in London, Natsuki had set up Award in Sake at WSET, and today both level 1 & 3 counted over 7,000 candidates in 27 countries. In 2015 she was awarded as “Sake Samurai”, the title is given annually by Japanese government to the individuals who contribute to the appreciation or promotion of sake internationally and domestically. In 2019 she was selected as one of the “Future 50” in the drink industry selected by International Wine and Sprits Competition (IWSC) and WSET, and she was the only Japanese candidate.
Natsuki is also a part of sake judge at annual International Wine Challenge Sake Category since 2011, and promoted to become Panel Chair judge since 2019. Through an international growth in the popularity and appreciation of Sake, Natsuki is looking to both enrich and extend this history to a new generation both within Japan and the wider world. More info: www.museumofsake.co.uk
Like many, Liam started in the booze business casually, working in pubs from the age of 16. It was when travelling and working in Australia in his mid-twenties when his interest in hospitality and cocktail culture really took hold. Upon returning to the UK, he managed an independent cocktail bar and sushi restaurant in Farringdon, London and learnt about a selection of Japanese beverages and cuisines. He went on to tend bar at many high-end London events and parties, and once served an Espresso Martini to Gandalf (Ian McKellen)! In 2012, he began working for a number of spirits brands on brand education, activation and drinks development. Always intrigued in the production processes and choices behind flavour in spirits, he studied with the WSET and began his role as UK Spirits Business Development Manager for WSET in 2016 in an aim to bring clear, unbiased and objective spirits education to the UK trade. He now manages all of the UK spirits focussed providers and works closely with WSET School, Events and Digital Education to develop WSET Spirits business and partnerships. He has subsequently completed the Institute of Brewing & Distilling General Certificate in Distilling (Grain). He is particularly passionate about Scotch Whisky, Agave, Rum & Pisco. In January 2020, he was grateful to visit Okinawa to take a deep dive into Awamori production, and now revels in sharing the love and understanding for Japan’s traditional spirits.
Billy Abbott is a drinks writer, educator and presenter based in London. He began his drinks career in 2011, after a succesful decade working in IT and finance.
Following his passion for great drinks, he changed careers and joined online retailer The Whisky Exchange as a writer. Over the past 10 years, his role has grown, seeing him become editor of The Whisky Exchange Blog and a senior writer for the Speciality Drinks group, and, as a WSET spirits educator, he now leads internal drinks training for the group. He is also The Whisky Exchange's ambassador, hosting tastings and seminars about all categories of drink. This has most recently included being one of the lead presenters for Virtual Whisky Show 2020, a week-long online celebration of whisky (and rum).
Along with his work at The Whisky Exchange, he is a freelance writer, presenter and educator, writing words, leading tastings and teaching people about drinks around the world. Since 2014, he has led Whisky Squad, a London-based whisky-tasting club that celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020. He is also a judge for a number of international drinks competitions, covering whisk(e)y, beer and Asian spirits.
This year, his work has been recognised with a Highly Commended nod in the Communicator of the Year Rest of World category at the Icons of Whisky awards, and a shortlisting for the IWSC Spirits Communicator of the Year.
You can find more about him at http://billyabbott.co.uk
Rose has 14 years in the hospitality industry working in bars across the UK, stepping into the cocktail world for Amoeba Craft Beer & Cocktails in Bristol in 2014. She became passionate about competition bartending which led to the re-establishment of the Midnight Cocktail Club, a monthly peer judged bartending competition that grew exponentially to be the biggest independent competition in the UK, training and pushing young bartenders to learn and excel at their craft
More recently Rose could be found at East London Liquor Company (ELLC) where she started in Sales for the South West, moving to Tour Manager and finally Lead Educator, where her passion for education grew through industry brand trainings, consumer tours, and teaching the WSET course to industry partners.
Having qualified to teach the Level 2 and Level 3 WSET Spirits courses, and having a genuine passion for both the people of the industry, and education within it; Rose aims to help those on the course to grow into future stars, pushing the category forward as a whole. Rose joined The Mixing Class in October 2020 with two years as a WSET educator under her belt.
Hannah Lanfear is one of the key Spirits Educators at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in London and is the founder of The Mixing Class, a company dedicated to education within the drinks industry with a focus on fostering diversity and socially responsible hiring practices. Clocking in at 21 years of service to the cocktail & spirits industry, her journey took her from a teenager pulling pints and pouring rum in a harbour-side tavern in Cornwall, to making fancy drinks for the cognoscenti in some of the world’s elite bars. She has managed and trained bar teams (Milk & Honey, Bungalow 8, Boisdale), passing down her skills from her mentors to her mentees; consulted on bar openings (Nimb Copenhagen, GloGlo’s); travelled the world as a global brand ambassador experiencing bar culture the globe over; as well as working for a distillery managing the sales, marketing and exports of a brand (Jensen’s Gin). She has written articles for industry press (Imbibe, Bar Life, Class, Drinks World Asia, Standart); been featured in many publications and media (Kanpai, Evening Standard, Time Out, Gaz Regan’s Annual Manual, BBC One, Wallpaper); was a member of the Tanqueray Ten Martini Guild; winner of the London heat of Bartender Mastermind; and GVine’s Gin Connoisseurs’ Programme World Finalist 2013. She is one of the IWSC Future 50, and Imbibe’s Educator of the Year 2019.
Born and raised in the English coastal city of Brighton, after completing his studies Richard worked in pharmacy for 10 years before leaving to pursue his passion for wines and spirits. In 2008 he enrolled at Plumpton College, where he studied Wine Business, and completed both his WSET Level 3 and 4 in Wines and Spirits. He then worked for a short time for an independent wine and spirits merchant before moving to Tunbridge Wells in Kent to work for Master of Malt, one of the UK’s biggest online spirits retailers where he remains today. In his time at Master of Malt he quickly started training staff in spirits and more recently has launched WSET Spirits courses, where has been in charge of teaching these to nearly 100 students. He has continued to study and recently completed his WSET Level 3 Spirits with Distinction and the corresponding educator course, where he was one of the first to be invited. In addition to teaching he also works in the Compliance department, where he is heavily involved in the regulatory aspects of spirits for domestic consumption, imports and exports. Over a number of years he has conducted many wine and spirit tastings, both for fellow professionals and for the general public and in his spare time he has visited many distilleries, mainly in the UK but particularly in Scotland. As his parents now live in Scotland, time there is often divided between seeing them and visiting the nearest copper still. In addition to spirits he still has a passion for wine, even though he doesn’t use his wine knowledge as often as he would like, and he also enjoys many different cuisines. Travelling is also a passion and he would love to go to the USA next, now he has fulfilled his dream of visiting Japan.
2nd Inauguration ceremony
For the second Awamori Zimbunner in 2022, as in the first year, a special curriculum on Awamori was given to lecturers of spirits from WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) and others who are knowledgeable about the world's food and beverage culture, leading to the appointment of six new Awamori Zimbunners.
2022 Inauguration ceremony
letter of appointment
Director, Diageo Bar Academy Asia Pacific
‘The aim of education is not knowledge, but action!’
Lam leads the Diageo Bar Academy in Asia Pacific and is responsible for the academy’s content development and implementation globally. Diageo Bar Academy trains more than 100,000 hospitality staff annually across more than 60 countries since 2011. In his role, Lam delivers WSET courses across the world as a Nominated Educator for WSET L3 Award in Spirits and L2 Award in Wines.
In 2019, Lam was inducted into the Keepers of the Quaich, testament to his enduring passion for Scotch Whisky. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Human Resource Management, Certificate in Hotel Management, and is a Certified Spirits & Wine Specialist and a Certified Sake Sommelier. Additionally, he holds a General Certificate in Distilling from IBD and is currently pursuing his Diploma in Distilling.
Prior to joining Diageo, Lam was the Vice Principal of the Institute of Wines & Spirits, SHATEC. During his 35 years in the hospitality business, he was an active member of the trade, serving a term as Secretary General of the IBA and was a long-serving Exec Committee member of the Association of Bartenders and Sommeliers Singapore.
Outside work, Lam enjoys playing the drums, reading comics and experimental distilling. With his favourite tipple being the Highball, he is currently working on perfecting Awamori serves.
Joe Cabassa, Distilled Spirits Expert and Educator
Driven by a deep passion for acquiring and sharing knowledge about the world of whisky and distilled spirits, Joe Cabassa has built a career of more than 20 years of proven experience as an educator and industry expert. Armed with countless prestigious certifications and formal education in all types of liquors and spirits, such as WSET Certified Level Three Spirits Educator, Edinburgh Whisky Academy Educator, amongst others, Cabassa has trained thousands of professionals throughout Latin America and the world, in turn representing the world's leading brands as an educator. His mission to push the limits of the knowledge of spirits has led him to work in more than 70 cities in 48 countries, including: USA, Canada, China, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, Spain, France, Scotland, and Holland, among others. He has been a panelist and speaker for various educational seminars at The Perfect Serve, Taste of Rum, Tales on Tour, Bar Convent Berlin, and Miami Rum Congress.
His most recent position is that of Regional Brand Ambassador & Luxury Hospitality Lead for the prestigious brand The Macallan in the Caribbean and Latin America. In this capacity, Cabassa is responsible for commercial relationships with the top luxury resorts throughout the Caribbean, training and educating their staff at all levels, as well as creating and leading bespoke tasting experiences for resort guests and consumers in the luxury yachting community, communicating the unique experience of this Scottish whisky by leveraging his professorial journey.
Connoisseurs and industry professionals rank Cabassa as one of the leading experts in distilled spirits and liquors, among those with the most experience and knowledge in the region.
On October 3rd, 2022, Joe Cabassa was inducted into The Keepers Of The Quaich, an exclusive and international Society that recognizes those that shown outstanding commitment to the Scotch Whisky industry.
Born in Koza, Okinawa and now living in Singapore, Koichiro Toyama graduated from National University of Singapore with a Master’s degree. He established a representative office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for Japanese freight forwarding company in 1995. He also worked at Japanese Mega Bank and Sogo Shosha of Singapore Branch, spearheaded the branding and operations of retail shops and cafés at Changi Airport and shopping malls in Singapore. With 7 years’ serving as an Okinawa Government Prefecture representative in Singapore and Vietnam, Toyama was responsible in working with Okinawa and Asia to promote inbound tourism with travel agencies and airlines. He was involved in charter flight services and scheduled flights between Okinawa and Singapore project as well as MOU project between Okinawa Government and Changi International Airport. He was also part of the team managing Okinawan product promotions at major department stores at Asian countries. He is currently in the management and operation of cultural heritage venues in Singapore and assisting Japanese companies as a consultant. Service-related industry business consultant, Ryukyu Creative Works, Director SSI International Sake Master
Thomas is Malaysia’s first Certified Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers, UK) back in 2006, an accredited International Burgundy & Bordeaux Wine Educator with the BIVB & CIVB, France, respectively, and is both a Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits (SWA, USA).
He is also a qualified Saké Educator & Specialist (WSET, UK & SEC, Japan), International Kikisake-shi (SSI, Japan), Certified Saké Sommelier Educator (SSA, UK) and alumni of the Japan Saké and Shochu Academy (JSS, Japan).
With over 22 years of experience in the industry as an international wine & spirits tasting judge, trainer, writer and forum speaker, Thomas is currently principal partner at Entwine, a consultancy offering niche business solutions for the hospitality and drinks trade industry.
Thomas is also appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries of Japan (MAFF) as an official Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador in recognition and support of his continued efforts in promoting Japan’s culture through its ‘kokushu’ - national drinks: saké, shochu and awamori, throughout the Far East / South East Asian region.
Thomas works actively with various trade commissions, independent bodies, regional trade shows in market intelligence, trade profiling, and brand development projects, among them presenting professional workshop seminars on Japanese saké and shochu since 2012.
Thomas also consults for key wine and spirits importers, leading hospitality resort group establishments, and gourmet retail chains within the country on their drinks portfolio selection and beverage training programs.
Head of Product Development for spirits qualifications at WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust UK)
Since graduating from university in 1996, King has worked in the alcoholic drinks industry. He
began his career at an independent retailer, Oddbins, one of the most innovative retailers in the
UK at the time. To further pursue his professional career in this field, King left Oddbins to work
for supermarket chain, one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK, to experience a completely
different aspect of retailing. He left Sainsbury's in 2007 to join WSET. Since joining, King has
been involved in developing WSET's wine, spirits and sake qualifications, currently specialising
in spirits in particular.
His greatest achievement to date was the creation and launch of WSET Level 3, which was the first qualification to include all major Asian land-based spirits. Since then, he has been a strong advocate of these spirits among WSET educators and shares his passion for these unique spirits.
Business Development Manager for spirits qualifications at WSET
After many years as a consultant for spirits brands and high-end venues, McCarthy joined WSET in
2019 as Business Development Manager EMEA (Spirits). He began his career as a cocktail bartender,
gaining his skills in some of London's best bars, and later developed his expertise as an event
bartender, where his originality and solid skills have made him the UK brand ambassador for
HENDRICK'S GIN. He has also consulted for brands such as Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, Glenfiddich,
and Glendalough, among others, and has extensive experience conducting master classes throughout
Europe, as well as training bar teams and designing cocktail programs for five-star hotel bars in
the Republic of Azerbaijan, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, and Mexico. He has also contributed to
global marketing campaigns for brands such as World Duty-Free and Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey.
McCarthy is qualified to teach up to Level 3 of the WSET Spirits qualification and is part of the team providing WSET Spirits Educator training.
In this coat of arms, a legendary beast called shisa is projected in a drop of awamori. Shisa is said to originate from the lion of the Ancient Orient, the same as the sphinx of Egypt, and be introduced from China to Okinawa via the Silk Road in the 13th century. Back then, only the royal family and some aristocrats used shisa as a symbol of authority. They placed them on the castle gates, sacred sites of rituals called utaki, and the hills of villages as an amulet; shisa was considered valuable. Today, people put them on the roof and entrance of their houses as the gourdian god to call for good luck and repel disasters, and they still value them just as before. Equally cherished as shisa, awamori has been preserved and developed as a treasured tradition of Okinawan people throughout the history of the Ryukyus. So, in the hope that this globally valuable aged liquor will spread its wings around the world to connect people with each other and deliver happiness, we embedded the proud guardian god shisa in a drop of awamori for the logo design.