Awamori in Iceland: positive response felt during tasting event

December 7, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo


In November, in preparation for opening up a Western market for Ryukyu Awamori, three distilleries in Okinawa Prefecture (Chuko Awamori Distillery, Zuisen Distillery, and Kumejima’s Kumesen), along with Blueship Okinawa, a consulting company, held a marketing event in Iceland.

The results of the marketing event were finalized on December 6. During the Awamori-tasting, the Awamori received good reviews by the local consumers, who mentioned the cocktail made with an Awamori base tasted like a “high-class vodka” or “high-quality gin.”

Icelanders who participated in the tasting event, (front row from left to right) Zuisen Distilliery President Manabu Sakumoto, Chuko Distillery President Tsutomu Ohshiro, and Kumejima’s Kumesen President Masaya Shimabukuro on November 11 in Reykjavik, Iceland (photograph provided by Blueship Okinawa)


The Japanese representatives felt the very real possibility of an overseas expansion.



On November 11, a total of 17 men and women in their 20s to 50s living in Iceland attended the tasting event.

A cocktail using Awamori as the base prepared by the local bartender champion was served without disclosing that it was made from Awamori to gauge the audience’s reaction.



Even for those who drank it straight, the Awamori was popular for its smoothness.

The Awamori also received praise from the bartenders as well. The bartenders said that they would definitely consider using it as a base for classic cocktails, such as the Manhattan (whiskey-based) and the Daiquiri (rum-based).



Kumejima’s Kumesen President Masaya Shimabukuro felt that “[In Iceland,] there is hardly any Japanese liquor, so we can be pioneers.” Zuisen Distillery President Manabu Sakumoto shared his view and said, “In Iceland, the liquor itself is a luxury item.

Icelander participants enjoying Awamori in Reykjavik on November 10 inside the Embassy of Japan in Iceland


I felt the popularity of Awamori in Iceland would grow if we worked on product development and advertisements that match Iceland, but emphasize Japan and Okinawa’s image and the natural yeast used in the Awamori.



On November 10, the group visited ATVR, a government agency that has a monopoly on the sale of alcoholic beverages in Iceland.

AVTR agreed to test sell Awamori at four of its flagship stores and would come up with a date in the near future.



Chuko Distillery President Tsutomu Ohshiro said, “Whether we can persuasively tell the tale of Okinawa’s climate and culture, along with the history and manufacturing of Awamori will determine [our sales strategy here on out].”



Blueship Okinawa President Hiroumi Keimatsu said, “We could feel how Awamori has the potential to rival the other hard liquors” and showed his interest in future development.



This initiative titled “Iceland Mission” took place as a result of the partnership agreement between the three distilleries and Blueship Okinawa that was arranged this past September.

Besides the tasting event that took place between November 9 and 14, there was also a reception in which foreign ambassadors were invited to the Embassy of Japan in Iceland.




(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)



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