Ultimate Japanese Sake Guide: Dassai Brewery

Japanese sake.  Let’s go on an adventure across Japan to learn about the country’s official drink.
How do you make this stuff? How should it taste? Is polish size important? Is it like wine or like beer? How do you drink it?
John Daub got a chance to tour Dassai Brewery with the company’s CEO, the world’s hottest sake brand to get those answers.

Dassai only makes Junmai Daiginjo sake, the highest quality, and if you want to understand sake, start with the best.
The company’s story is significant.  In the 1980’s sake (nihonshu) consumption was going down because of competition from more beer, wine, and shochu. CEO Sakurai-san changed the company strategy, started making only Junmai Daiginjo and incorporated technology like centrifuges to make the smoothest drinking experience with sake.

The result:
2005: 120,000 bottles sold
2013: 1,140,000 bottles sold
Nearly a 1000% increase

As the domestic market continues to struggle, internationally, no brand is more popular than Dassai. You see Hollywood stars and celebrities in New York, Paris and London sipping it these days.

So — what makes a good sake and what makes a great one?
1 Yamada Nishiki rice. The best place to grow this is Hyogo prefecture.
2 Polish rate: anything under 50% makes a sake Junmai Daiginjo category. The lower the polish ration, the less impurities, the smoother the taste.
3 The Koji. Dassai uses a very complex one called Tsukihaze koji-kin that penetrates into the rice.

Here is the process that Dassai uses at the brewery:

1 The rice in planted in June. Rice planting is called taue in Japanese.
2 Rice Harvest
3 Polished to either 50% 39% or 23%
4 Wash, rinse and soak
5 Steam
6 Air dry and cooling in a process called Horei
7 Koji is created (as the sugar for the yeast to create alcohol)
8 Shubo yeast starter added to fermentation tanks
9 Moromi (mash) added to 5000L tanks
10 Process is monitored for 35 days.
11 Moromi press / Dassai centrifuge
12 Bottling and Pasteurization
13 Drinking!
Dassai sells 3 main sizes. Here is the price list:
1800ml – 10,000 yen
720ml – 5,000 yen
300ml – 2500 yen
180ml – Japan only

Dassai Sake Website: https://www.asahishuzo.ne.jp/en/



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President of Weblish Media Ltd.
Reporter for NHK World "Tokyo Eye"
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