October 2010

Far (East) Forward

By: Meridith May
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From soccer to saké is a quite a segue, but Trent Ulicny, a former soccer player and more recently the co-founder of TY KU Liqueur (and followed by TY KU Saké and TY KU Soju), has managed to score goal after goal in the spirits game, with one of the most unique brands to emerge in the industry’s recent history.

Trent Ulicny at XĪNO restaurant in Santa Monica, California. PHOTO: MERIDITH MAY

A play on Tai Chi and haiku, TY KU is indeed a combination of healthful ingredients and (liquid) poetry. Superfruits and green tea are part of TY KU Liqueur’s make-up, including yuzu (for vitamin C), mangosteen (rich in antioxidants), Tibetan goji berry (boasting 18 amino acids and vitamins), honeydew and ginseng.

It is the recipient of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences’ prestigious Five Star Diamond Award.

“There was no existing brand loyalty when it came to the saké category,” explains Ulicny, who, with business partner Kirk Spahn launched the saké-based liqueur in the tall triangular glowing green bottle three years ago in Las Vegas. The brand can now be found in 50 states and 50 countries.

As a follow-up, at a time when vodkas, tequilas and me-too spirits were flooding the market, Ulicny and Spahn not only branded a line-up of sakés, but built their reputation on the ultra-premium side of the category, with a junmai ginjo and a junmai daiginjo under the TY KU name.

“We were enamored with Asian culture,” claims Ulicny. “We knew how important it was to create a name that carried our message, our passion. We didn’t want to merely establish a trendy brand, but something that would actually create a following because it was a name to trust.

TY KU White recently won Double Gold and Best in Class at the San Francisco International Wine Competition; this special-designation junmai daigingo—a top quality level that represents less than 5% of all saké— is crafted by the world’s most decorated saké brewmaster, Yoishio Koizumi. In addition to these tremendous accolades, TY KU White has also become the first beverage ever to attain the highest honor from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS), the coveted Six Star Diamond Award.

While TY KU White is only the second saké to ever win a medal at the San Francisco Competition, it is the first beverage ever to receive the distinguished Six Star Diamond award. Esteemed hotel and restaurant properties are former recipients, and their support should pave a natural path for TY KU, as the first beverage honored, to climb to the top shelf summit.

Socially responsible and environmentally aware, TY KU has also been bestowed with the AAHS Green Six Diamond award.
Capturing the forefront of the saké movement, Ulicny proudly says, “These recent accolades are monumental honors, not only for TY KU, but for the saké category as a whole.”



TY KU White is known as the Crown Jewel of Saké for a reason. The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, the world's premiere organization for awarding excellence in travel, cuisine, luxury products and services, has bestowed its Six Star Diamond Award on this ultra-premium saké. This is the first-ever beverage brand to be acknowledged by the organization, directed by Joseph Cinque and with a long list of Honorary Trustees that includes Donald Trump, along with a line-up of chefs, hoteliers, restaurateurs and captains of industry.


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