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Discovery of "original" awamori ingredient excites local breweries

Date Posted: 1998-06-27

A professor from Tokyo has recently brought back to life one of the awamori's main ingredients, causing excitement among local brewers of Okinawa's own intoxicant. Okinawans used so called black malt for making awamori from the earliest days up until World War II, when most of the awamori breweries were burned to the ground during the Battle of Okinawa, and the original malt straits destroyed.

Before the start of the war, Hiroshi Sakaguchi, now an honorary professor at Tokyo University, collected black malts from 64 breweries on Okinawa. When the war ended, the malts were taken to a Tokyo University laboratory, where they were preserved in a fixed-temperate vacuum storage container, and much forgotten.

Sakaguchi recently announced his discovery that of the total samples, only 19 malts collected from 14 breweries still were alive. While it is only 3% of his original sample, one specimen from the Sakumoto Awamori Brewery was found to be alive and hitherto unknown species of black malt.

Mr. Sakumoto, president of the Sakumoto Awamori Brewery, was excited about the discovery. "I don't know anything about collecting black malts and I don't think anyone in this brewery does either. But I want to try making awamori using that malt, although I don't know if we'll succeed with it or not. If we do succeed in making awamori using the malt, it will be a rare awamori because we will be using the malt from the bygone era," he said.

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