The 2024 Judging session is over

The 3rd annual Australian Sake Awards were held in Sydney on the weekend of 18th & 19th May, 2024.

This year, the event took place once again at the historical Customs House, located in Circular Quay, just a short walk away from Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

This year’s awards saw many changes within the categories and judging system, including the progression of a two day competition, and the addition of a food pairing component. 

The panel of judges for this year once again included many industry professionals and was made up of Australian sommeliers, sake retailers, food and beverage industry professionals, sake qualification holders, and sake importers and wholesalers.

We were honoured to have with us again this year, Mr. Ken Oda, from the National Research Institute of Brewing in Japan. Mr. Oda’s expertise has been a wonderful addition to the awards, including his valuable input and guidance during the pre-judging online lectures and presentations, where he provided the panel with a wealth of information.

This year, over 160 sakes were entered in the Australian Sake Awards.

All of the sakes tasted were submitted from breweries throughout Japan who had sent in their application to enter the competition earlier this year.

It was great to see many judges return from previous years, as well as welcome some new members to the ASA judging community.

Judges were once again sat in small groups at round tables, allowing for some discussion amongst each group, which served well in light of some of the changes made since last year’s awards – in particular, the food pairing component. This interactive and immersive style of judging, put in place in 2023, has proved popular amongst the judges and helped to create a strong sense of community amongst the 50+ judging panel.

The new categories were as follows:

  • Sparkling
  • Elegant and Clean
  • Fruity and Floral
  • Savoury / Full-Bodied
  • Mature / Complex

This year also saw the new category, “sessionable”, replace the “people’s choice” award from previous years.

On Day 1, each sake was assessed on aroma, flavour, taste and balance, and of course the characteristics of their category. The scoring system this year was a score from 1-5, with 5 being the highest score.

Additional feedback / comments on each sake were also welcome, including individual food pairing suggestions.

On Day 2, each sake was assessed alongside the food selection it had been entered to pair with (selected by the brewery from the 5 options available). The scoring scale was 1-5, with 5 being the highest score/best match.

The food component consisted of 5 individual dishes:

  • Cooked Prawns
  • Charcuterie Board
  • Margherita Pizza
  • BBQ Beef Steak
  • Grilled Salmon

The changes were well received overall. Considering this was the first time we had implemented these new categories and the food pairing component, we are looking forward to reflecting on the event as a whole and considering some encouraging feedback from our judges as we move forward. It was certainly an exciting and encouraging weekend of tasting and judging and we look forward to making some further positive changes for next year, as we continually try to grow and evolve into a truly uniquely Australian event.

The primary purpose of the Australian Sake Awards is to recognise the kind of sake that is popular with consumers in Australia and to ultimately be able to give each individual brewery feedback based on the judges scores and written feedback. Through this, we hope to strengthen ties with breweries in Japan and allow them to better understand the sake market in Australia. We are also trying to create a familiar and accessible language for customers/consumers when it comes to selecting/purchasing sake – moving away from the more traditional ‘grading’ system that can sometimes feel very unfamiliar and intimidating for people who are just discovering sake or beginning their sake journey.

The results of the judging will be announced on the 10th of June and the awards ceremony is scheduled to take place in Sydney this September, prior to the Australian Sake Festival.

Australian Sake Awards 2024 Ceremony

Thursday 26th September, 2024, 6pm start

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Sydney NSW, Australia

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