CEO of SakeTaberu, James Liu Brings Something New to the Luxury Sake Market

Beyond sweet sakes and traditional fermentation techniques — SakeTaberu CEO James Liu understands how to cater to the consumers of today.

May 16, 2024 | By Florence Sutton
CEO of SakeTaberu James Liu

James Liu is the CEO of the Singapore-founded sake brand SakeTaberu. SakeTaberu differentiates itself from other sake brands on the market with various USPs (unique selling points) which include producing naturally-made sake without preservatives or additives alongside incorporating 100-year-old fermentation techniques. The brand also has distinctive ranges including brand specialty “amazakes”, also known as sweet sakes and the “Four Seasons Sake” range. “We aim to only produce the best quality sake for your enjoyment and peace of mind,” reads a motto from the brand’s website. Quality ingredients using all-natural traditional Japanese fermentation techniques brought to the shores of Singapore, James Liu speaks to LUXUO on the journey of starting his own brand and his plans for brand expansion across Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia.

You were born in Taiwan, studied in Singapore, and have spent much of your life in Southeast Asia. Tell us about your love of Sake and what brought you to owning a Sake Brewery in Japan?

I never really felt too different from being Singaporean and have always warmly embraced this identity, especially since I served in the national service here. But being born Taiwanese was really what gave me the opportunity to start the brewery and our brand. I had an uncle living in Japan at the time who was disinterested in continuing with his sake brewery and had initially wanted to sell it. My family brought it up casually one day and the opportunity to own a business immediately sparked an interest in me. My parents have always been in business, and growing up watching them really inspired me to also put heart and soul into something I really cared about and owned, rather than working to build something that wasn’t mine.

CEO of SakeTaberu James Liu at the Singapore Yacht Style Awards 2024

You mentioned that SakeTaberu is produced by fermentation techniques that date back over 100 years, tell us more about it and the centuries-old history of Sake.

We cannot talk about the history of Japanese sake without mentioning rice. Rice was brought from China to the southern island of Kyushu about 2,500 years ago and generally predates recorded history, so there’s fuzzy evidence of its origins. Historians suggest several theories of its origins, which connect to when wet-rice cultivation became prevalent in Japan. Several texts allude to an unspecified type of rice-based alcohol in Japan. The earliest references to alcohol in Japan were in the first-century Chinese text “Lunheng” (論衡) and third-century “Records of the Three Kingdoms” (三國志). They described the drinking and dancing culture of the Japanese people. The Nihon Shoki (日本書紀), the historical document, and the Kojiki (古事記), the classic mythology text, mentions Gods imbibing the drink. Another theory suggests that kuchikami zake (口嚼ノ酒) was the origin of sake. This type of alcohol, made by villagers chewing rice and spitting the contents into a communal vat, was also found in China around 500 BC. The saliva and natural yeast enzymes would convert the rich starch into an alcohol slurry. The technique was supposedly brought to Japan during the origins of sake-making. But if I found out that my sake was made from saliva today, that might have just turned me off from drinking it.

SakeTaberu’s sakes are made naturally, without preservatives or additives. How does this differ from other sakes sold on the market and what are the key tasting notes of SakeTaberu’s sakes?

I would say the biggest difference that helps our sake stand apart from the mainstream sakes on the market would be the fact that we have heavily popularised the idea of enjoying “amazakes”, also known as “sweet sake”. This is because traditional sakes could prove to be too dry or too intense for most consumers in today’s alcohol climate. This is really why other than our usual range of exquisite traditional sakes, we curated a “Four Seasons Sake” range, celebrating a beautiful sake for each season. This also helps us cater to the general market of people who might have less experience with alcohol. At SakeTaberu we believe that enjoying sake, enjoying alcohol, and enjoying life, should be inclusive and expressive — through not just taste, but through heart.

How is sake incorporated into cocktails and tells us which SakeTaberu-based cocktail is your favorite?

I’ll be honest, I cannot profess to be an expert mixologist, but enjoying alcohol is personal, so I would suggest you try mixing different types of sake with other kinds of alcohol or mixers — you never know which combination would hit the spot. But if you’re asking for my recommendations, a beautiful cocktail of Prosecco, Sakura sake and a tinge of raspberry syrup stirred nicely would make an awesome drink to quench your thirst.

Which bar in Singapore would you recommend to our readers who want to enjoy SakeTaberu?

Well, I cannot answer that question definitively. I am not gatekeeping, but rather because all the bars we work with curate equally beautiful cocktails with heart. You just have to try them all.

Is SakeTaberu available online?

Yes of course, your readers can order our sakes off our website at www.saketaberu.com 

What events and tasting experiences are you holding in Singapore and how can our readers register for them?

As of now, we have multiple events in the pipeline. Prior to this SakeTaberu was an official sponsor for the Singapore Yacht Style Awards 2024. My company sponsored sake for the esteemed yacht owners and VIP guests for the yacht awards and yacht show, and are looking to work even more closely with One15 Marina, LUXUO and Yacht Style in the near future. We will be sharing more updates in due time and encourage your readers to look forward to more news. Please follow us on our Instagram for more updates on future events! And of course, any events with LUXUO, Men’s Folio or Yacht Style, rest assured you can always spot me there.

Read More: The Winners of the Inaugural Yacht Style Awards 2024 in Singapore

Where do you see your company “Soaring Swallow” in five years? Would you have expanded to other South-East Asian (SEA) markets?

We are currently in a few countries in SEA and China, but the ultimate goal is definitely to expand throughout most if not all of SEA, and bring more sake and the culture of Japanese sake to the rest of the world.

What is a life mantra you live by?

Always look ahead, always move forward, always smile, because life goes on – c’est la vie!

Find out more about SakeTaberu here:
Website: www.saketaberu.com
Instagram: @sake.taberu
Email: Liubuziness@gmail.com & saketaberusg@gmail.com

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