The 2013 Sake Professional Course Level II

with SEC-certification testing for Advanced Sake Professional


The main objective of Level II is to seriously deepen your understanding of the sake world, how it is made, and then focus on developing tasting skills and an understanding of styles, quality levels, and more through focused and guided tasting exercises.

Those currently reserved to attend in 2013 are listed here.

The schedule is as below.

Monday, February 11
9:00 – 12:00 Welcome, Orientation, Review etc of Production, tasting components, etc.
1:00 – 3:30 Continuation of above program; guided tasting of several sake
3:30 – 5:00 Guest Lecture, Mr. Ota, the economics of sake vs. those of wine (tentative)

Tuesday, February 12
9:00 – 9:30 Review and QA
9:30 – 12:00 Guest Lecture and tasting with Haruo Matsuzaki
1:00 – 5:00 Blind and Guided Tasting Practice

Wednesday, February 12
10:00 Masumi Brewer (two of ‘em!) in Nagano.  (tentative)
No organized dinner this evening, as we get back about 6 or 7 by bus, within which we have been drinking, and folks want to study for the exam the next day.

Thursday, February 14
9:00 – 12:00 Level II Test
1:00 – Move to Kumazawa Shuzo, see brewery, enjoy dinner

Friday, February 15
Optional Visit to Kikuyoi Brewery in Shizuoka, or another brewery. Dassai tasting for those who want to participate at night. (\4000 for all the Dassai you can drink, perhaps 20 varieties all told, and a buffet dinner). (Tentative!!!)

Below is a more formal description of the course and its content, included here for the sake of thoroughness.

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The Level Two Sake Professional Course will focus on taking your current
presumably high level of understanding related to sake to the next level.
This will include plenty of new material not presented anywhere else in English.
We will talk in much more depth about the production process, including
detail down to the numbers, such as temperature curves and times for
koji making, moto preparation, moromi day counts, and how changing these
affects everything else. The purpose will not be to allow you to brew,
but rather to increase your familiarity with the process.

However, the course will focus mostly on tasting exercises designed to
attune palates to things like rice varieties, yeast differences,
pasteurization related issues, grades and production methods, and levels
of maturity. These will include taking copious notes on blindly tasted
sake, and discussing these openly, as well as being presented with, for
example, a typical example of one yeast or production method, then
searching for those characteristics among other blindly tasted sake. We
will also cover the various chemicals and acids that lead to particular
flavors and aromas in sake. I have again convinced good friend and well
known and prominent taster Haruo Matsuzaki, the man with “the palate
from hell” as I like to describe him, to give us a lecture and guided
tasting on how to taste sake and how to improve our tasting skills and
abilities. Matsuzaki-san has easily taught me more about sake than any
other single person over the years, and the few hours that he gives us
will easily be the most invaluable period of the course.

We will furthermore have a guest lecture from Junichiro Ota, the
owner-inherit (presumably) of a prominent distributor in Tokyo, on the
economics of sake especially in comparison with the economics of wine.
Not only that, but Ota-san can do it in English!

The above will take three days to complete. Each evening will again be
spent at a restaurant replete with a range of good sake to which you
need to be exposed.

The morning of the fourth day will be set aside for the Level II test,
about which more information will be provided. It will be essay, short
answer, multiple choice, and incorporate a tasting element as well. That
afternoon we will head down to Kanagawa Prefecture, another 90 minute
train ride, to see the micro- compact- sakagura making the wonderful
sake Tensei. We will then enjoy dinner in their old, cavernous
incredibly charming kura environs.

Day five will be a trip up to Nagai Shuzo in Gunma, a lovely
brewery in the middle of nowhere making soft, subtle sake. As usual, I
have arranged visits to somewhat large, somewhat medium, and hopelessly
tiny kura (one of each, that is) to emphasize the differences, strengths
and cons of all scales.

Pricing: The cost for SPC2 \150,000 for the three days. As with SPC Level One, dinner will be included (excluding Friday), but other meals will not. Travel expenses and accommodations are also separate.


Travel expenses will include minimal train travel around Tokyo, and your share for the trip up to Masumi in Nagano. We will be renting a limousine bus and splitting it, and with 20 people it should be about 4000 yen each (round trip). Friday, the trip to Aoshima Shuzo, brewers of Kikuyoi, in Shizuoka is also optional, but it will very much be worth the visit as the family is great, the sake rocks, and you will never get it outside of Japan. The train down there will run about 6000 yen one way. Also, the Dassai tasting event, a heluva lotta fun, costs 4000 yen for the buffet and sake. (Tentative: pending Dassai scheduling!)

As with SPCI, we will all stay in the same hotel, but we will not be changing hotels as the whole course is based out of Tokyo.  Hotel reservations will be handled for you on our end.   For those of you that took SPC I here in the past couple of years, the hotel will be the same one – Shinbashi
Atagoyama Tokyo

Those interested can make a reservation by sending me an email to that purport. Any questions? By all means, free l free to ask.

Two Testimonials from Last Year (2012)

In the SPC Level I,
John promised that “No Sake Stone Remains Left Unturned”.  What is left?  In the next level,  John”carefully examined some of these Sake Stones and a few are broken down for further analysis.”
Visiting breweries is an invaluable experience that serious sake scholars, sommeliers and even enthusiasts should not missed.  It is not often you get a passionate Toji serving you his sake and explaining why he does things differently.


Tack-wai Cheong

SPC ll contains all the components of SPC I, only more so, and on a much higher level.  The tasting component is comprehensive and very well focused.   Add in the hands on visits to the Kura, and you have the makings of  an outstanding course.    John Gaunter is the top ambassador on planet earth for Sake Culture as it exists in Japan.

Fran Kysela  MS