The Ethical Spirits & Co. Ayumu Yamaguchi "Sake that is not only delicious" Vol.1
Ethical Spirits Co., Ltd. reuses sake lees, which is basically discarded, to produce a new craft gin, LAST . This time, in order to explore the behind the scenes of "LAST", we interviewed Mr. Ayumu Yamaguchi, the representative director and brewing manager of Ethical Spirits, who has been involved in the front line of sake brewing at a young age. What are Yamaguchi's thoughts on ethical spirits?
─Thank you for your time today. First, please introduce yourself, Mr. Yamaguchi.
My name is Ayumu Yamaguchi. Born in 1995, I am 24 years old. I was a student at the Department of Fermentation Science at Tokyo University of Agriculture. In the Department of Fermentation Chemistry, there are many sons of sake breweries, and it is a special department even in Japan where you can learn mainly microbiology related to fermentation and brewing.
─ So you studied quite professionally.
Yes, after that it's not just classroom learning. While I was in school, I was involved in the early stage of the sake venture company WAKAZE , which is also handled by Mirai Saketen , and I was involved in product development there.
One day, the president of WAKAZE suggested, "I want to do the FONIA series (sake with botanicals added during the manufacturing process)!" At that time, I had knowledge of botanicals through gin, so I applied that knowledge to supervise the recipe for the method of ``putting botanicals in sake and squeezing it''. After I grew up, I loved gin so much that I bought gin from overseas that hadn't been imported into Japan.
▲ WAKAZE sake sold at Mirai Nihonshuten. The three on the right are the " FONIA series ".
In addition, I have been involved in the launch of the Mitosaya Yakusoen Distillery, a fruit brandy distillery in Chiba Prefecture , and I still occasionally help out.
─ So you were involved in a wide range of practical businesses related to alcohol.
Now, in addition to WAKAZE and Mitosaya , I am making insect food under the brand ANTCICADA of Join Earth . Instead of labeling insect foods as "gettemono" or "highly nutritious," we focus on the "taste of insects themselves" and create dishes and products that are delicious to eat. We also make cricket beer made from roasted crickets, and giant water bug gin that takes advantage of the pear-scented pheromones of insects called water bugs.
─How did you come across ethical spirits ?
The chief brewer of WAKAZE , who is still working as a brewer at Sangenjaya , introduced me to Mr. Yamamoto, the president of Mirai Saketen.
It seems that Mr. Yamamoto himself had envisioned the current model of ethical spirits as a “ distillation platform that realizes a circular economy ” using gin and sake lees before he met me. When I heard the story, I was greatly sympathetic to the project itself, which is a concept, or rather, a project that returns a portion of the profit generated by recycling waste sake lees to the sake brewery.
After that, I personally felt the charm and potential of shochu distilled from sake lees called “kasutori shochu”, so I decided to participate.
▲ Craft gin “LAST”, an ethical spirit made from sake lees shochu.
─What are the charms and possibilities of kasutori shochu?
Even if you say shochu made from sake lees, the taste changes considerably depending on what kind of sake lees you use. Sake lees is a liquid that concentrates the characteristics of the sake brewery in a way that is the most intense, and it is also interesting that the individuality of the brewery comes out .
Moreover, Kasutori shochu has a strong and pleasant aroma, so I was thinking that if we did a good job of marketing and branding, it would be possible for us to spread our wings around the world.
There are various Japanese gins available in Japan, but many of them focus on botanicals. Gin was originally made by adding botanicals to unblended whiskey and then distilling it. There aren't many unblended whiskeys that have a Japanese feel to them.
Under such circumstances, I thought that if I could bring out the Japaneseness of the original whiskey instead of botanicals, it would be the most interesting Japanese gin, and if I were to launch a gin business, I would like to use sake lees shochu. Even if it weren't for this ethical spirit story. Mr. Yamamoto approached me about it, and I agreed with the concept and the taste, so I decided to participate.
─What is your position at Ethical Spirits ?
From the standpoint of the company, I'm the co-representative , but from my point of view, I'm the person who makes sake. In terms of sake breweries, I think it corresponds to the chief brewer. Make a recipe and actually go to the brewery. Of course, we have the people in the brewery handle things like machine operation, but it feels like they make the final decisions.
─Aren’t you pretty young in the industry?
I think I'm probably close to the youngest in terms of the head of this kind of distillation. I've never heard of 24.
Mr. Ayumu Yamaguchi has been involved in the launch of several businesses while studying brewing, and has accumulated practical experience. I understand that this project was started by combining the appeal and potential of sake lees with the concept of ethical spirits, which is a distillation platform that realizes a circular economy . Next time, we will delve into the concept of ethical spirits and our commitment to taste.
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