Dassai is one of the biggest names in the sake world and a sake brewery, or kura, that has played a key role in its modern history. Focusing exclusively on junmai ginjo and daiginjo premium sakes, Dassai was at the forefront of the premium sake boom in the 1980s and their Dassai 23 is heralded as a veritable sake masterpiece.
Who is Dassai?
The Dassai brand is the brainchild of the Asahi Shuzo brewery, which is a relatively young brewery that was founded in 1948 in Yamaguchi. Despite not being an area traditionally associated with sake production, when Sakurai took over as CEO following the death of his father in 1984, he was determined to show that Yamaguchi was capable of producing world-class sakes. Since then, Dassai has been on the cutting edge of the sake industry, while also being determined to show off what Yamaguchi can produce with a sense of terroir from their local rice and onsite crisp spring water well. The name “dassai” is a reflection of the company’s philosophy. It literally means “otter festival” and refers to the otters of Yamaguchi who’d catch fish and lay them out on the riverbanks, as if showing them off in a festival. A famous haiku poet Masaoka Shiki, who lived about a century ago, gave himself the nickname dassai because he’d spread his reading material all around him just as otters do with fish. He was instrumental in a revolution in Japanese literature, and it is with this spirit that Dassai adopted the same name to create a sake revolution to serve a new era of sake.
Dassai has truly created a sake revolution and, while respecting the sanctity of the sake production process and the traditions behind it, Dassai has enthusiastically embraced the latest technologies to explore uncharted territories of sake. A prime example of this is Dassai being the first sake producer to use a centrifuge to separate the finished sake from the lees. They also unusually own their own rice polishing factory, with higher polished rice being linked to the crisp, floral, and aromatic flavors of premium sakes. They have 16 polishing machines at their factory taking locally grown legendary Yamada Nishiki rice – the preferred rice for making premium sakes – and blowing it between huge stones in tall machines to be milled down to a fraction of their size. Dassai produces different sakes at different polishing grades, namely 50 (Dassai 50), 39 (Dassai 39), and 23 (Dassai 23). The lower the percentage, the crisper the flavor, and milling down the rice slowly and gently to 23% for the world-famous Dassai 23 takes over three and a half days.
What is Dassai 23?
Dassai 23 is synonymous with class, elegance, and refinement. Milled down to an impressively small 23%, it is commonly seen as one of the best sakes in the world and is often given by the Japanese prime minister to foreign dignitaries as a gift. Being milled down to such a low amount, Dassai 23 is a very clean and balanced drinking experience, with a sublimely aromatic and floral quality to it. It has a refined nose, with a hint of delicate citrus to its taste. Simple yet refined, Dassai 23 makes for a brilliant gift as not only is it fascinating in taste, it is well presented and comes with a sense of being part of discovering something exciting in the world of sake.
If you would like to purchase Dassai 23 for yourself or as a gift, you can find a great deal on a 720ml bottle of Dassai 23 junmai daiginjo with an exclusive box on Ippin.
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