Have you ever watched a Japanese cooking show? The host will travel to a far-off region of Japan to try a local delicacy and after plenty of tension building (and ad breaks), the dish is revealed to the audience and the panel of guests. The panel then samples said dish, usually with a tsunami of “oishii” exclamations, while we, the audience, can only use our imagination. Was it really oishii?

Online foodie events – which have become particularly popular during Covid-19 – can end up feeling similar to these shows: a great deal is learned about the region from which the dish originated but we have no samples to really solidify that connection.

Now, the genius people at Japan Craft Sake Company, spearheaded by former pro-footballer Hidetoshi Nakataare changing this with their interactive online sake tasting experiences – which I happily agreed to try out.

A few days before the scheduled 90-minute sake tasting event, called Sake x Nomy, I was greeted with a knock at my front door. Expecting a small package of sample sake, I was taken aback by the massive box being delivered. Six large bottles of sake from Hiroshima sat before me. I was overjoyed, to say the least. The generous quantity of sake provided set the scene of what was to come: a sake tasting like none I’d ever experienced.

sake tasting cups

Held via Zoom, the event started with an introduction of two sake masters, Junichiro Aihara from Aihara Shuzo Sake Brewery and Hideki Kanemitsu from Kanemitsu Shuzo Sake Brewery. The event host, Kaori Sasaki, and the masters began with a quick summary of the different bottles, with Aihara introducing his brewery’s line of sake, Ugo no Tsuki (The Month After Rain, 雨後の月), and Kanemitsu introducing Kamo Kinshu (賀茂金秀). 

As we sampled each line, the masters discussed which notes we should look out for – sweet versus tart, for example – and even the best glasses in which to serve the sake to enhance the flavor. While I found Ugo no Tsuki to be sweeter and smoother, Kamo Kinshu had a more rounded taste, however both were fantastic in their own right. Most definitely oishii.

After sampling each sake, the masters, using a series of in-depth slides and videos of the factory, treated us to a deep discussion about the production process, from how and where the rice is acquired to fermentation and bottling. With each new piece of information, our eyes were opened to the intricacies of sake making and just how much passion goes into every bottle.

Towards the end of the event, we shared another glass with the masters, but now, filled with this newfound knowledge, the sake tasted even better as certain flavors and notes we hadn’t been able to pick up before were suddenly as clear as the sake itself.

sake tasting

As informative and fun as the online seminar was, sake always tastes better with company – and the six 720ml bottles are clearly meant for more than just this online session.

There will be enough left over to share with your friends and family, plus you’ll be armed with interesting sake knowledge straight from the masters, making you feel like a pro at your next dinner party.

Find more information about Japan Craft Sake Company at craftsake.jp/en and check out their other online events here. Each event introduces sake from different regions. For the time being the events are all in Japanese.