Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association imposes strict standards on quality indication of kusu

June 30, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association decided to impose strict quality standards following a case in which nine distilleries in Okinawa violated the Japan Sake Shochu Makers Association’s code of fair competition regarding the quality indication of kusu, or aged awamori. Although the association had previously specified that distilleries are able to name awamori as kusu if the percentage of the awamori aged for three years accounts for more than 51% of the liquor, it increased that ratio to 100% on June 29. The association is scheduled to announce the change of quality setting at the beginning of July.

Nine distilleries violated the regulations specifying that distilleries cannot name awamori as kusu if the percentage of awamori aged for three years is less than 50% of the liquor after being replenished. The case was brought to light when the Japan Sake Shochu Makers Association issued a warning and instruction to the distilleries. Following the case, the Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association had discussed imposing stricter quality standards to prevent such a case from reoccurring.

That same day, the association held a board meeting in which it voted to implement the more stringent standard. In cooperation with the Okinawa General Bureau, the association is currently preparing the legal procedures required to implement the new standard.

According to people concerned, the association aims to revise the rule within this fiscal year, but it is expected that member companies may protest about the revision because their production costs will increase and inventory levels will grow.
In 2004, as a voluntary regulation for the indication of quality, the association imposed strict standards on the indication of awamori storage years for kusu. Awamori can only be named as kusu if awamori aged for the number of years indicated accounts for the total volume, or if the awamori is blended with something aged for more than the number of years indicated. The revised regulations will include those voluntary standards. Application has been made to the central government, so the revised regulations will be implemented from the day they are approved.

Takeshi Sakumoto, president of the association, asked for understanding from consumers and companies, saying, “Although companies that follow the rules and develop new products will be inconvenienced by having to deal with inventory, issues of safety and understandability are important for consumers. All the people involved in the industry should strive to improve the quality of their products.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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