Kojima Sohonten serves up award-winning Toko Junmai in new sustainable cask packaging.

Sake lovers around the world have long lamented over the fact that you can’t buy boxed sake. After all, if wineries overseas are able to bag up their wines in pouches and sell them in “bag-in-box” packaging for easy pouring, surely it should be possible for sake brewers to do the same.

However, though sake is commonly sold in bottles and large cartons resembling milk cartons in Japan, the bag-in-box style just hasn’t made a blip on the radar. However, that’s all set to change now, with prestigious brewery Kojima Sohonten unveiling its new product, called the Toko Fresh Sake Server.

Founded in 1597, Kojima Sohonten is the 13th oldest sake brewery in the world and was once the purveyor to the powerful Uesugi clan. Now, the company does business out of its Toko brewery, which takes its name from the word for “eastern light”, in honour of its location to the east of Yonezawa Castle in Yamagata Prefecture.

Toko sakes are held in high regard by connoisseurs, but the company is also receiving plaudits for its commitment to sustainability, receiving the top award in two categories at last year’s The Drinks Business Green Awards, run by the world’s leading drinks trade publication, based in the U.K.

In 2020, Kojima Sohonten switched all its production to junmai, a pure style of sake that contains no added distilled alcohol, and in 2022 it shifted its electricity over to locally generated renewable energy. This year, it unveiled the Toko Fresh Sake Server as its latest sustainable development, and it has several impressive benefits.

Firstly, the box is reusable, so all you have to buy when you run out is the pouch, which cuts down on waste.

Then there’s the size, which is compact enough to fit easily in the fridge, but holds three litres (101 ounces) of sake, which would normally be about four 720-millilitre bottles.

The sake can be poured straight from the box in the fridge or taken outdoors for events or get-togethers, and the airtight container prevents oxidation and blocks light so you can enjoy it fresh for a long time.

According to 24th generation brewer Kenichiro Kojima, the Toko Fresh Sake Server was born from the company’s desire to cut down on bottle usage. Bottles were a common complaint amongst customers, who said they found it difficult to store the large 1.8-litre sake bottles in the fridge, and as they’re picked up for recycling only once or twice a month, they can take up valuable space in the home.

Kenichiro Kojima

The box-in-bag packaging has a lower environmental impact than bottles, making it a win-win for everyone involved. It doesn’t reduce the quality of the sake, either, as a monitoring survey conducted by the company revealed a 91-percent customer satisfaction rating for the new product.

The Toko Fresh Sake Server became available to purchase at the company’s online store on 22 April, to coincide with Earth Day, and brewery sales are scheduled to begin in mid-May.

There are four different products available:

▼ Toko Fresh Sake Server Set Junmai (4,290 yen [US$27.55])

▼ Toko Fresh Sake Server Set Super Dry Junmai Ginjo (4,708 yen)

▼ Toko Fresh Sake Server Set Junmai Refill (3,960 yen)

▼ Toko Fresh Sake Server Set Super Dry Junmai Ginjo Refill (4,378 yen)

Those needing to replace the box can do so at a cost of 330 yen. As for the actual sake, the Toko Junmai is said to have a mild flavour characteristic of a classic junmai sake, and it can be enjoyed both hot and cold, with light foods like sashimi being a particularly good pairing.

▼ Toko Junmai won the gold award at the Delicious Sake in a Wine Glass Awards in 2015 and 2018.

The Toko Super Dry Junmai Ginjo is, as the name suggests, a super dry sake, with a gentle aroma and outstanding sharp taste. It’s said to have a beautiful finish and is a good partner for main meals.

▼ The Toko Super Dry Junmai Ginjo won gold in the Delicious Sake in a Wine Glass Awards in 2022 and 2023.

As you can see, these are award-winning sakes, making them a cut above what you’d find in bag-in-box wines overseas. In fact, after looking at all the benefits associated with boxed sake, it’s nice to know that if it’s packed in a box you don’t have to skimp on quality, and we hope that more companies worldwide will look to this model as a sustainable alternative to bottles in future.

Related: Toko Online Store
Source, images: PR Times
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