SET PRO April report – The highlights

Written by Chris Hughes


Themes: temperature, aroma & difference between sweet and dry.
Sakes tasted: 9

Greetings sake lovers!

On three Sundays in April, the tasting glasses were laid out again for another round of international exchange and sake study as we successfully held not 1, not 2, but the first ever trilogy of SAKE SET PRO.

The Story so Far….


When I started putting together the Sake Exchange Tokyo concept back in November, I had three objectives in mind: international exchange, promotion of sake to a wider audience and of course, sake study — or to phrase it another way, shedding light on the charms of the beverage; the same charms that make you fall in love with it in the first place. To elaborate, I lovingly refer to the history, culture and traditions that sake is steeped in.

The event started off very successfully, but soon I reached a crossroads. I had originally started out targeting two separate demographics: people who want to taste sake and learn more about the beverage and people who attended for the exchange aspect. I thought it was possible to achieve both objectives, to satsify both these demographics in one format. However, I can say with hand on heart that I got this wrong.

You only had to look at the feedback from some participants to see that this was the case. Basically, people who wanted to focus on the study aspect of the event were at odds with the people who just wanted to taste sake and merrily partake in international exchange. Over time, the SET events gradually became more and more like exchange parties, strengthening this divide in the process.

And so, in March, I decided to reshape the events. The result was PRO and LITE. The main element of PRO was an extraction of the study aspect, the lecture from the original format; LITE was basically the original format but with a shorter lecture and no guided tasting. So, in other words, for those who just wanted the freedom to enjoy international exchange with a glass of sake in hand, there was LITE and for those who wanted a professional focused study session, i.e. a workshop, there was PRO.

I have to admit that in hindsight, PRO was a poor choice of word: it’s the sort of word that can conjure images of head scratchingly difficult academia — I think a lot of people were probably put off by this. As a result, I didn’t realise quite the attendance I had been hoping for. But the events went ahead nevertheless, and were a roaring success.

Here are a few of the comments from the people who attended this time around.
You can see from the comments that these events are just as suitable for beginners as they are for the more knowledgable sake buff.

April’s Feedback

If you are still in doubt as to whether this format is for you, please see some of the nice comments that we received from those who attended this month’s PRO events.

“The meet up was great! I didn’t have any knowledge about sake and I was nervous to go, but I’m glad I attended because the lecture was easy to understand and follow. I learned so much in short period of time.”

“Thank you so much Chris for organizing. I had a really great time. I love Japanese Sake, however, I noticed I had a lot of things about Sake I don’t know….I’d like to join again soon.”

“My first funtastic sake meet up was really great. I can imagine some people may have been intimidated by the description of the event and may have worried it would be to technical but Chris did a fantastic job explaining everything with anecdotes and easy to understand language; no overly technically jargon. It was very relaxed and Chris was incredibly knowledgable. Definitely consider going to the next PRO meeting. It is totally worth it.”

The Tastings (A Sample)


Still not convinced?

Why not take a sneak preview at the tastings that we prepared for April’s events.

Each tasting is effectively a case study. A case study on sake focused around a particular aspect of the beverage.

April’s Case Studies Highlights Preview

Sakes Served at Different Temperatures
1. Kurabito Kurabu Hiire – A light, well-balanced sake from Kyoto made with the brewing rice Kyo no Kagayaki and Society Yeast No.1801
2. Mimurosugi 27BY – A sake made in the Bodaimoto style  
3. Mimurosugi 26BY –

Case Study Highlights

The first sake was served first at room temperature and then Nurukan. Nurukan is often referred to as a safe temperature for experimenting with. Sake will undergo a dramatic change every 10 or so degrees.

The second sake was served from chilled up to body temperature to show how temperature affects aroma.

The third sake — and now here is where it gets really interesting — was served first at room temperature — gradually increasing the temperature all the way to piping hot or Tobikiri. I had concluded beforehand that the aged properties of sake number 3 would allow it to hold its own in the heat, while releasing umami notes along the way. The result was a flavour transformation with hints of cereal notes on the finish. It tasted like a completely different sake. If you have ever wondered if there is any point to this heat setting, you have to try this combination!

Interested to try one of these case studies for yourself?

Why not come and join the next SET PRO?