WSET Sake Courses


I've taken the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 1 and Level 3 awards in sake this year. Here are some thoughts. Posted by Thomas Sutton on September 17, 2018

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust are a non-profit industry group based in the UK who offer training and qualifications (many regulated by Ofqual) about wine, spirits, and, in recent years, sake (the Japanese alcoholic drink brewed from rice). Being a drinker of sake and a lover of training and bits of paper, I was pretty interested to learn about their sake courses and that they are offered in Sydney. I did the one-day WSET Level 1 Award in Sake in March and took a few days off in June to do the WSET Level 3 Award in Sake, both taught by Leigh Hudson at Chef’s Armoury Sakeshop in Sydney.

The WSET Level 1 Award in Sake course is more or less an introduction to sake. It provides a basic understanding of sake production, grades and styles of sake, and an introduction to service. The key, for me, was the opportunity to taste a range of different sake in together. In something resembling the order tasted:

  1. Kirinzan Dento Karakuchi (futsushu)
  2. Hanamikura Kuro (junmai daiginjo)
  3. Nagaragawa Junmai (junmai)
  4. Nagaragawa Tenkawa
  5. Yamamoto Midnight Blue (junmai ginjo nama genshu)
  6. Dewatsuru Sparkling Sakura Emaki
  7. Daruma Masamune 3 Year Old Koshu
  8. Kariho Junkei Karakuchi (junmai)
  9. Kubota Shuzo Sou (namachozo)

The first three were selected as examples of different grades of sake, and the nama (unpasteurised), sparkling and aged are self evident.

I’ll have to dig out my notes about them all to fill in some details. The day ended with a multiple choice exam and, a few weeks later, I got my grade, certificate, and lapel pin.


The WSET Level 3 Award in Sake course is longer and covers a lot more detail. It also involves tasting a lot more sake over two and a half days. In the approximate order of tasting:

Sake tasted on the first day
Sake tasted on the first day

Back row, left-right then front-row, left-right:

  • Hanamikura Aya (futsushu from Hakusen Shuzo in Gifu)

  • Oita Oni Koroshi Daiginjo (daiginjo from Oita Shuzo in Gifu)

  • Daruma Masamune 5 Year Old Koshu (koshu from Shiraki Tsunesuke in Gifu)

  • Yamamoto Extra Dry Dokara (junmai from Yamamoto in Akita)

  • Kaze No Mori Akitsuho Junmai (junmai from Yucho Shuzo in Nara)

  • Mio Sparkling (sparkling sake from Shirakabe Gura in Hyogo)

  • Kirinzan Blue Junmai Daiginjo (junmai daiginjo from Kirinzan Shuzo in Niigata)

  • Hanamikura Fuku (junmai daiginjo from Hakusen Shuzo in Gifu)

  • Hanzo Kaminoho Junmai Daiginjo (junmai daiginjo from Ota Brewery in Mie)

  • Kariho Junkei Karakuchi (junmai from Kariho in Akita)

  • Amanoto Tenkuro Junmai Genshu (junmai genshu made with black koji from Asamai Shuzo in Akita)

  • ??? I think this was a practice tasting under exam conditions, but I didn’t note down the name.

Sake tasting in the morning of the second day
Sake tasting in the morning of the second day

Left to right:

  • Fukuju Junmai (junmai from Fukuju in Kobe)

  • Tsukinokatsura Iwai 80 Junmai

  • Kaze No Mori Alpha Type 3 (junmai daiginjo from Yucho Shuzo in Nara)

  • Kirinzan Brown Junmai Ginjo (junmai ginjo from Kirinzan Shuzo in Niigata)

  • Hanamikura Kuro (junmai ginjo from Hakusen Shuzo in Gifu)

  • Senbazuru Kimoto Junmai (kimoto junami from Sato Shuzo in Oita)

  • Hanahato Kimoto Junmai Ginjo (kimoto junami ginjo from Enoki Shuzo in Hiroshima)

Sake tasting in the afternoon of the second day
Sake tasting in the afternoon of the second day

Front only, left-right:

  • Kirinzan Dento Karakuchi (futsushu from Kirinzan Shuzo in Niigata)

  • Shichida Junmai Ginjo (junami ginjo from Tenzan in Saga)

  • Oita Junmai Nama Sake (junmai nama from Oita Shuzo in Gifu)

  • Oita Oni Koroshi Dohatsu Shoten Dry (junmai from Oita Shuzo in Gifu)

Sake tasting on the third day
Sake tasting on the third day

Right to left:

  • Takara Nigori (junmai nigori from Takara Shuzo in Kyoto)

  • Dewatsuru Sakura Emaki Sparkling (purple rice sparkling sake from Dewatsuru Brewery in Akita)

  • Senbazuru Daiginjo Koshu (koshu daiginjo from Sato Shuzo in Oita)

  • Hanahato Colombe Kijoushu (kijoshu from Enoki Shuzo in Hiroshima)

  • Kikumasamune Taruzake (junmai from Kiku-masamune in Hyogo)

  • Kubota Shuzao Toji Ikkon Daiginjo Nama (daiginjo nama genshu from Kubota Shuzo in Fukui)

  • Senbazuru Yamahai Zukuri (junami yamahai from Sato Shuzo in Oita)

The Level 3 exam has three papers: a multiple choice quiz, some short answer and essay questions, and a blind tasting of two sake. Eleven weeks later I got my results (distinction on the theory papers but only a pass on the tasting) with a certificate and a nift lapel pin.

Both courses were good fun and provided a great introduction and then a good foundational knowledge of sake. There’s still lots more for me to learn (and drink) but the WSET courses give, I think, a pretty good start.

This post was published on September 17, 2018 and last modified on September 18, 2018. It is tagged with: alcohol, education, drinking, sake.