A Japanese research institute has developed a process for making sake from trees. The institute’s manufacturing process creates unique flavors using cutting-edge fermentation technology. The cedar-based product is expected to be commercialized by 2025. However, the high cost of equipment installation poses a challenge for companies entering the market. The research institute aims to support commercial production to increase demand for domestic timber.
The institute showcased samples of Japanese white birch, cedar, Lindera umbellata, and Mongolian oak. These samples had fresh wood aromas and were adjusted to a 25% alcohol content for tasting. The birch had an aged taste similar to whiskey, while the Lindera had a fruity, sweet aroma.
The sake contains ingredients found in various beverages and foods. It has complex flavors and deep aromas, resembling aged spirits. Ethical Spirits, a Tokyo-based venture company, aims to commercialize its sake product. The company has mastered the fermentation technique with the support of the research institute and hopes to launch its wood spirit brand made from cedar by 2025.
The research institute discovered a non-chemical fermentation method that produces alcohol safe for human consumption. It uses a “wet-milling” production method, pulverizing wood into mash to release natural sugars. By installing larger machines, companies can potentially produce at least 50 bottles per week.
Domestic businesses using domestic timber will be allowed to use the patented technology. The institute offers training to new market entrants in a dedicated research building. However, only four companies and organizations have signed contracts so far due to the high equipment costs.
The research institute believes a variety of tree-based sake flavors are possible, given Japan’s 1,200 tree species. They hope to secure subsidies from national and local governments to further develop this project.
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