Sake Manila: A Splendid Celebration of Japan’s Sake and Spirits

In a spirited collaboration, Philippine Wine Merchants and Okada Manila united to unveil the inaugural Sake Manila festival. Taking place on May 24, 2024, within the opulent confines of the Okada Manila Grand Ballroom, this event heralded a new era of sake appreciation. As the Asia Editor of Bridges Magazine, I had the pleasure of indulging in this delectable occasion.

This grand festival brought together sake enthusiasts and connoisseurs for a celebration of Japanese craftsmanship and tradition. Set against the luxurious backdrop of Okada Manila, the event provided an immersive experience into the world of sake, with an ambiance that hinted at the essence of Japanese culture.

Okada’s talented chefs showcased their expertise with meticulously curated Japanese dishes, cheeses, desserts, and more, perfectly paired with sake selections.

Sake Booths, Brews and Beverages

One of the first people I met was Akihiro Igarashi, Senior Managing Director of KoedoKagamiyama Sake Brewery. Their Kagiyama Junmai, originating from Saitama Prefecture, Japan, embodies a delicate aroma and rich flavor, crafted from the finest Sakemusashi rice with a 40% polishing ratio. Established in 1875 in Shintomi-cho, Kawagoe City, the brewery upholds tradition while embracing innovation, prioritizing local production and collaborating with farmers to cultivate “Sake Musashi,” a new type of sake rice. Located in Kawagoe, known as Little Edo, they draw inspiration from the town’s heritage to create sake that captivates the palate and honors tradition.

Also present at the event was ShigeharuAsagiri, President and CEO of Coedo Brewery, offering a delightful selection of their brews for attendees to enjoy. I had the pleasure of sampling a flight of their brews, which included their innovative creations. Coedo Brewery, originating from Saitama Prefecture, Japan, is known for its innovative approach to brewing, including the creation of the world’s first sweet potato beer, “Beniaka,” in 1996. Coedo focuses on producing premium craft beer by combining small-batch artisan techniques with traditional craftsmanship.

This grand festival brought together sake enthusiasts and connoisseurs for a celebration of Japanese craftsmanship and tradition.

Among the standout participants for me was Kikuchi Sake Brewing Co., Ltd., a small brewery from Okayama Prefecture, established in 1878. Yoko Kikuchi, the Director and wife of President Daisuke Kikuchi, showcased their classical brand “Sanzen,” which means “Brilliance,” brewed with traditional skills. The brewery is renowned for using Omachi rice, a specialty of Okayama, and for producing “Kiseki no Sake,” or “miracle sake,” made from rice cultivated without pesticides and fertilizers, adhering to a philosophy of sustainability and excellence.

Another popular exhibitor was Asahi Shuzo, makers of Dassai. Their philosophy, “we cherish sake crafting,” is evident in every bottle. As their website states, “Here at Asahi Shuzo, we craft sake to brighten your life, not to drive sales or for you to get drunk.” This commitment to quality is why friends often ask me to bring back Dassai whenever I travel to Japan. Dassai is crafted for enjoyment, not mass consumption, aiming to enhance a pleasant lifestyle while remaining accessible to all. Asahi Shuzo focuses on creating high-quality sake and sharing it globally, maintaining strong partnerships to introduce Dassai to enthusiasts around the world.

I also had a taste of Tatsuriki Junmai, this exceptional sake offers a glimpse into meticulous craftsmanship. Brewed under precise conditions, it undergoes an extensive process, including over 100 hours of rice polishing to 35% and a three-week brewing period. Aged for five years under controlled temperatures, it boasts a nuanced aroma of honeysuckle, musk-melon, pear, and apple, with a delicate balance of sweetness and dryness on the palate. Tatsuriki Brewery’s dedication to using high-quality rice, particularly Yamada Nishiki from Hyogo Prefecture, reflects their commitment to creating sake that impresses with each sip.

Familiar Faces and Networking Opportunities

The festival was not only a celebration of sake but also a reunion of familiar faces from various industries. I saw many friends from the food and beverage sector, including chefs, alcohol distributors, food suppliers, restaurateurs, food connoisseurs, and sake lovers. The atmosphere was vibrant and fun, overflowing with libations, gastronomy, and entertainment, with everyone coming together to experience and enjoy the diverse offerings of sake. Beyond the sake and culinary experiences, Sake Manila offered valuable networking opportunities for industry professionals and enthusiasts. Guests had the chance to engage with like-minded individuals, make new connections, and reconnect with old acquaintances who share their passion for sake and Japanese culture.

Sake Manila 2024 was a grand celebration of Japan’s gastronomic treasures, and I eagerly look forward to next year’s event.

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