Japan's no.1 Sake Brand and Brewery Tour

Dassai is Japan's leading sake label for a reason.

Watch the video for a complete report.

Sake is called NIHONSHU in Japanese which essentially means Japan's drink.
It's more than just an alcoholic drink. Sake is used in Japanese religious ceremonies, weddings, business openings and more.
But it's still a fantastic drink and in this video, I show how Japan's no.1 brand makes their smooth tasting Dassai 23.

What makes Dassai great?

Dassai only makes JUNMAI DAIGINJO sake with means all sake has a polish rate of 50% or smaller. Polishing the rice removes the impurities and makes it a smoother experience. Dassai 23 is rice polished down to just 23% remaining from the whole brown rice grain. It's more expensive because more rice is needed to make a glass and it's very hard to polish so small without breaking the grain.

Dassai 23 is selling very well, but Dassai wasn't always the top brand that it is today. CEO Hiroshi Sakurai changed the business strategy when he took over the family owned company in 1984. He was on a quest to make daiginjō-shu and succeeded to make the popular Dassai 23 in 1992 after many failures. It wasn't until 2005 that the company skyrocketed. From 2005 to 2014, Dassai sales increased by over 1000% from approximately 120,000 bottles to 1.4M bottles. Currently, one of the main reasons sake production is small is because it is limited by old laws restricting cultivation areas of yamada nishiki rice for brewing sake. Those laws are being debated and may change soon which is a good news for the sake industry as a whole. Domestically, sake has been under attack since the 1970s when beer, wine and whiskey appeared in the Japanese market. The recent boom in shochu (a Japanese spirit commonly made from potatoes) has also made Japan a tough market for sake, but with global demand increasing greatly, there's never been a more exciting time for Japanese sake brewers.

Dassai 23 is the smoothest drinking experience ... but why?

What makes a smooth sake smooth?
The rice polish ratio.

Sake has been brewed for centuries and the recipe is no secret.
There are numerous steps including the most critical: making the koji.
Koji is steamed rice that has been inoculated with special mold spores. The mold spores grow on and in the rice making it sweet. It is used as the sugar for the yeast to create carbon dioxide and alcohol.

But before you make the koji, you need the rice and it's the polish rate that is said to give premium junmai daiginjo sake its smoothness.

Dassai 23 is smoother than Dassai 50. There's no debate but ... is smoother always better? It depends on YOU!
I prefer the Dassai 39 which has a little more character to it.
It's also a lot cheaper. I also like trying other brands and have a great appreciation for TARUSAKE stored in cedar barrels. Sake has as much character as wine and beer so try and compare.

Finding Dassai

It's not easy to find a bottle of Dassai, even in Japan!
They have a new store in Ebisu and a bar in Kyobashi near Tokyo Station.

Official prices for bottles:
1800ml - 10,000 yen
720ml - 5,000 yen
300ml - 2,500 yen
180ml - Sold only in Japan

I've found small 300ml bottles at the Tokyu Department Store at Shibuya Station (basement) and some at Tobu Department Store in Ikebukuro as well. There is almost always a line when deliveries are made!

Does Dassai live up to the hype?
If you find a bottle or make your way to the Dassai 23 Bar, try it and let us know.
But if you're asking me, a guy who lines up for it when they sell bottles at the store, the answer is unquestionably yes. Kanpai!

URL / References:
Dassai: https://www.asahishuzo.ne.jp/en/
Bottling data: http://www.nippon.com/en/features/c00618/
Map to the Dassai Bar 23: https://goo.gl/maps/L95ozLbWSvP2
All about sake: http://www.nrib.go.jp/English/sake/pdf/guidesse01.pdf
John's video website: http://onlyinjapan.tv
ONLY in JAPAN on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ONLYinJAPANWAORYU/featured

by John Daub

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