Road to being an International Sake Sommelier

At Inter Rice Asia, we make sure all of our employees are properly and rigorously trained in all matters sake. In this post, we have our account manager, Charlie, speak about his recent experience taking the SSI Sake Course.



Every beverage professional aspires to better him or herself and in my case, my path starts with the International Kikisake-shi, certified by the Sake Service Institute (SSI).

The SSI is the leading organised body on Sake sommelier certification, having done so since its founding in 1990. It aims to expand the reach of Japanese sake and food culture to the international audience, growing the appreciation and understanding through educational campaigns.

My instructor was Joshua Kalinan, Sake Sommelier of the Year in 2018, as well as Top 10 participants in MasterChef Singapore.

Joshua, though not being a native Japanese speaker, made sessions enjoyable by sharing his experience in Sake. Whether it was his constant search for new sake or memorising Japanese characters with the concept of pictograms, I felt his love for Sake radiating through him.

There were course attendees who were industry professionals, working in distribution, working restaurants and service, and then you had dedicated consumers, people who drank sake religiously and wanted to learn more. Everyone was brought together for their love of Sake.

Spanning an entire day, I sat through from morning till evening, with a lunch break in between. To say that it was not rigorous would be an outright lie. I learnt about the history of Sake, service and hospitality, brewing and tasting of Sake, and more, all within the span of two days.

The course itself was a fun, casual, and yet professional affair. All course attendees had input in regards to their journey with Sake, and many of them had excellent palates. One of the attendees was a wine sommelier, and there were tasting notes thrown left and right, from cotton candy to melon, from wet clothing to licorice. It was an enlightening time!

As of now, I’m working towards studying and preparing for the exam, which is supposed to happen within a month’s time. The exam involves multiple choice questions, short answer questions and a tasting segment. In this uncertain climate, one can only guess whether it will take place or be postponed.

The course was truly an experience that I’d encourage all Sake lovers to go through. It opened my mind to what Sake can be, and a glimpse into the future of Sake. And what a bright and beautiful future it is!

Charlie Phua

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