In Okinawa, Awamori is popular as a "food wine" enjoyed with water. Nowadays, it is enjoyed in a variety of ways, including highballs, and the repertoire of Awamori is increasing.
In recent years, "barrel-aged Awamori," which is aged in wooden barrels, has become popular. The taste of barrel-aged awamori, which is not really awamori at all but almost like whiskey, is attracting attention from people other than awamori fans.
How would a whiskey expert react to such barrel-aged awamori? We asked a whiskey expert to review it for us.
character profile: Yusuke Nishi
Manager of KEYAKI Wine Bar and Wine Supervisor of Ultra Chop
He is a certified whisky expert, one of only about 1,900 in Japan, and is an official brand ambassador for THE GLENLIVET, a JSA certified sommelier, and a WSET. He is also a certified instructor of the Food Analyst Association, and as an expert in food information, he can convey the maximum appeal of communication through food.
The sake to be reviewed this time is "Okinawa 2001".
This time, Mr. Nishi will be reviewing "Okinawa 2001" sold by Kumesen Shuzo.
The barrel-aged Awamori, which is based on barrels aged in oak barrels imported directly from Kentucky in the U.S., is gaining popularity both in Japan and abroad as it is "just like whiskey.
Mr. Nishi told us about the meaning of barrel aging and its effects.
Barrel aging is literally the process of maturing liquor by storing it in barrels for a long period of time. In addition to whiskey, wine and beer are also aged in barrels. There are several types of materials used for barrels, and the effects of aging vary depending on the material.
The barrels used for "Okinawa 2001" are oak barrels, which means they are made of wood, right? As you can see, the Awamori, which would normally be almost transparent, has turned into an amber color like whiskey. This is the effect of the dissolved ingredients (solute ingredients) from the wood. In addition to the color, the same can be said for the aroma and taste. As the individuality of the barrel wood dissolves, the color, aroma, and taste all change into liquor with a different character than before aging.
He got to drink and review "Okinawa 2001"!
After learning about the effects of barrel aging, we asked Mr. Nishi to taste "Okinawa 2001" for us.
What kind of reaction would a whiskey professional have to this Awamori named "Ryukyu Whiskey"?
In the blind tasting, you'd think it was whiskey!
At the blind tasting stage, you wouldn't think it was Awamori at all. The vanilla-like aroma from the oak barrel aging is just like bourbon itself! The taste as it goes down your throat is similar to the feeling you get when drinking rum.
The taste as it goes down the throat is similar to that of drinking rum, but when you taste it slowly, you get the impression that the barrel aroma is a little more flashy. You can think of it as something different from a full-fledged aged whiskey. However, I got the impression that it is a very well-balanced drink, not only in terms of taste and aroma, but also in terms of price.
A wide range of drinks that I would recommend to all drinkers.
In my personal opinion, this drink is a product that does not need to be categorized as whiskey or awamori. If you can enjoy it from a flat perspective without having a fixed concept of whiskey or awamori, I think both whiskey lovers and awamori lovers will be able to make new discoveries.
We asked him how to enjoy the barrel-aged sake "Okinawa 2001".
Okinawa 2001" received a very positive evaluation as a "well-balanced sake. We then asked him to recommend how to drink it when enjoying it at home, and how to pair it with food.
What is the recommended way to drink?
It is a sake with a very strong barrel flavor, so I recommend drinking it straight to fully enjoy its character. As the temperature rises, the flavors become even more pronounced, so try to enjoy it slowly while raising the temperature in your mouth.
It is also a good idea to drink it straight and add water afterwards to enjoy the change. By adding just the right amount of water, the aroma will open up and you will be able to feel the charm of the sake even more. If straight is too strong for you, try to enjoy it on the rocks, half rocks, or twisties up.
What to pair with a meal?
It is an easy drink to pair with any occasion. The recommended snacks will change depending on when you drink it, but basically, salty snacks are easy to match.
For example, mixed nuts. The barrels used to age "Okinawa 2001" are the old barrels used to make bourbon, right? Bourbon is a whiskey that uses at least 51% corn as an ingredient. As the basis of pairing, it is said that ingredients from the same lineage go very well together, so among mixed nuts, big corn is the best pairing. The moderate salt will enhance the sweetness of the drink.
Also, in terms of using ingredients from the same land, I find it interesting to pair you with some pork jerky!
Perfect as a treat for yourself or as a gift for the alcohol lover in your life!
After the review, Mr. Nishi praised "Okinawa 2001" as the perfect sake to give as a gift.
What I felt most strongly when I drank "Okinawa 2001" was that it was a sake that I would want to recommend to someone. It is made in such a way that anyone who likes distilled spirits will find it delicious, and even whiskey fans will be surprised to taste it for the first time.
The price is not too high and not too low, which is a perfect price range for giving as a gift.
Normally, a single malt aged for 17 years would cost around 20,000 yen, but if it is too expensive, the recipient may feel intimidated. In this respect, "Okinawa 2001" is a full-fledged product, but it is priced perfectly so that it can be drunk casually without being overbearing. I think it's the perfect gift for someone who likes to drink.
Also, one of the charms of Awamori that whiskey does not have is that it is bottle-aged. I am sure that "Okinawa 2001" will become even more fragrant and wonderful when it is aged in bottles. Buying it yourself and enjoying the yearly changes in flavor while "growing Awamori" is also a wonderful way to deal with this drink.
*Bottle-aged: General distilled spirits such as whiskey stop maturing when they are bottled, but Awamori continues to mature in the bottle, so the taste changes year by year.
To purchase barrel-aged Awamori "Okinawa 2001", click here.