Hokusai Assemblage is an exciting new sake blend, to be launched by Sake Experience Japan on October 1st, 2018. This bold new step of combining sake from different breweries has created attractive new flavors and will fascinate sake connoisseurs and newcomers alike, both in Japan and abroad.
Central to the quality of any sake is the source of its water. The Mt Fuji waters used for Hokusai Assemblage have been filtered by nature for around 100 years, achieving exceptional purity.High end sake is usually aromatic with a sophisticated body, achieved by heavily polishing the rice. However, this sacrifices the important characteristics of mellowness and end note. Sake Experience Japan ensures that Hokusai Assemblage takes the best of both worlds, bringing you a beautiful aroma, complex body and an extremely silky texture.
Although the participating breweries are located in different prefectures, both Fuji Takasago and Ide Sake Breweries draw their water from Mt Fuji. Hokusai, famed for his depictions of water, has always been associated with both water and Mt Fuji. Hokusai Assemblage is an homage to Hokusai’s artistic reverence for both Mt Fuji and pure, beautiful water.
Pristine environs of the breweries
The packaging is toned entirely in shades of “Prussian blue”, also known in Japan as “Hokusai Blue” because of his extensive use of this colour. The artwork used is from his “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, Koshu-kajikazawa”. This wood-block print (ukiyo-e) is known for being the most representative woodblock using Hokusai Blue. In addition to that, the image shows two waves becoming one, embodying the concept of this blended sake. In the logo of “Hokusai Assemblage”, Japanese hiragana characters (shown in darker lettering below) spell out Hokusai (ほくさい) within the English letters of the same word. This kind of hidden puzzle is common in his artwork.
The Hokusai Assemblage is a limited production of only 600 bottles.
|Product name||Hokusai Assemblage|
|International Shipping||November 1st|
|Sales Area||Global market|
|Production Volume||600 bottles|
Why we developed Hokusai Assemblage
The sake industry in Japan has been experiencing reduced demand due to the increasing popularity of pre-mixes, wine and whisky and many sake breweries have faced bankruptcy. By piloting an innovative product attractive to international markets, Sake Experience Japan intends to market test a genuine boost to the sake industry in Japan and abroad.
When we first conceptualized this product, we chose Hokusai as a brand name. Katsushika Hokusai is one of the most well-known Japanese artists in the western world. His iconic woodblock “Great Wave off Kanagawa” has been replicated in countless ways and is instantly recognizable. In 1998 he was listed among the top 100 people who had influenced to the world in the past millennium, the only internationally renowned 19th century painter to make the list. He created around 30,000 paintings in his life yet, like our brewers, this “old man mad about drawing” did it not for financial success, but for the joy and purity of his art.
Art event “Japonism” (September 2018 – March 2019) will showcase Japanese art to the world in Paris, so we thought it perfect timing for a brand honoring the first innovative designer in Japanese history.
The sake industry has traditionally targeted wine connoisseurs. These efforts have resulted in the broadening of sake acknowledgement beyond the Kura Master and Sake Selection competitions, culminating in the 2007 introduction of the sake segment to the International Wine Challenge (IWC). In addition, the world-famous Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) now provides sake education. Together, these have further promoted quality sake to those in the know, including top chefs and sommeliers.
However, Sake Experience Japan’s consumer research (20 countries) revealed a large gap between expectation and reality. Generally speaking, wine lovers evaluate wine as higher quality if it carries aromatic flavor, finesse, concentration, complexity and longer end note. Recently, many sake brewers have focused on using extremely polished rice and creating aromatic flavor. Since then, we believe that some sakes have appeared lacking in other characteristics which fine wine lovers regard as important.
Despite its extremely delicate finesse and elegance, even Junmai Dai Ginjo, the top sake category, has less body, less complexity and a shorter finish. In addition, our market research indicates that those who do not like sake often object to the alcohol flavor. Since sake is often perceived abroad as a spirit rather than a wine, overcoming this flavor objection also involves education of the consumer palate. By addressing all factors that discourage international markets from sake, we sought to overcome barriers to attracting more consumers.
We therefore aimed at the international wine ideal of an aromatic flavor, mellow body and a longer finish without that stark alcohol taste. To achieve this, we took the bold step of overcoming hundreds of years of historical precedent and created an “assemblage” – a blend of two sakes with perfectly complemented features. We analyzed the pros and cons of various daring sake breweries and found two that produced complementary characteristics, from which the assemblage could take advantage.
Breaking free from tradition
In addition to the centuries of accumulated knowledge within the sake industry, Sake Experience Japan believes that we can also learn methodologies from the wine and whisky industries. Assemblages of wine and for whisky are very common – not just within one region or country, but between nations as well. Although vintage has played an important part in the wine industry, some brands now create cross-vintage blends to create a valuable new product.
However, the sake industry has been slower to consider this as an option. Blending sake conjures memories of the overshadowing of smaller breweries by larger ones. At that time, big sake breweries subcontracted many smaller local sake breweries to produce standard sake under the larger brand. During that period, most of the sake produced by local breweries was bought by the large companies, so independent businesses had no incentive to develop their own sake brands. Thus, assemblage has been regarded as the cause that stopped innovation.
Overcoming this objection was no mean feat, but we truly believed that an assemblage could benefit both the local breweries and their end customers.
Even though many sake breweries welcomed the opportunity to work together, there was still some hesitation: each felt that their sake should be completed in their brewery. However, we were lucky enough to find in both Fuji Takasago and Ide Sake Breweries an immense appetite for this challenge. The Fuji Takasago owner strongly felt that without a step change, the sake industry would not have a bright future. Ide Brewery came at the problem from a different direction: personally, the owner’s son finds it extremely frustrating that sake is priced not according to taste and quality, but instead according to class, itself mostly determined by how much the rice is polished. Both breweries therefore believe that Hokusai Assemblage is a gamechanger that will attract new customers to sake generally, generate interest in both participating breweries and represent a fairer pricing structure that inspires better and better quality.
|Sake Experience Japan
Chief Executive Officer Takeshi Itani
15-28 Mabuchi 2-Chome Suruga-ku Shizuoka city, Japan
Ph: +81(0)54 266 9673 Mobile: +81 (0)80 3136 3589
Fax: +81(0)54 266 9675