There are certain sake breweries that acquire a reputation for having some of the best tasting nihonshu in the world. The Asahi brewery (not to be confused with the beer brand!) based in Yamaguchi, is known for making ultra-premium junmai daiginjo under the Dassai brand. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Dassai and finally got the chance to try their cream of the crop sake – Dassai 23.
Why did I choose the bottle?
The Dassai 23 was generously supplied by London Sake, a premium nihonshu shop based in the UK. The sake itself carries great prestige because of its high-quality. As the name suggests, the rice used to make it has been milled down to an extraordinary and sexy 23%.
The Asahi brewery is relatively young in terms of sagakura (brewery), having only started in 1948. Once known for producing futsushu (table sake) under the name of Asahifuji, the brewery looked to reinvent itself under the capable hands of President Hiroshi Sakurai. He became the toji (head brewer) and decided to create a new kind of nihonshu that appealed to western tastes.
The focus turned to the rice polishing ratio that determines the grade of sake. Sakurai decided on 50, 45, 39 and 23, putting the new concoction in the realm of junmai daiginjo. Dassai translates to ‘otter festival’ and is part of a local Yamaguchi legend. As the story goes, a family of otters enjoyed playing in nearby rivers and liked to display the fish they caught on the shore, as if they were preparing for some great festival.
The brewery’s ethos can be summed up with their motto: “never become complacent with existing tradition and handcrafted techniques, but rather to reform and revolutionise how some things are done, and in so doing make superior sake.”
The Dassai 23 is an aromatic, fruity sake that draws you in from the very first sip. An aroma of peach and melon wafts through the nostrils, setting the scene. Savoury notes of chestnut and pine wash the taste buds in glorious fashion. The flavour of peach creeps in slowly, unfurling on the tongue, giving way to a punchy and zesty aftertaste.
There’s a silky texture to the 23 that makes it easy to drink. I’d recommend drinking it chilled or at room temperature. It’s a versatile kind of nihonshu that can be paired with a range of dishes. I paired it with chicken kiev and soy sauce-soaked mushrooms. The savoury qualities of the alcohol contrasted beautifully with the meatiness of the dish. But the Dassai 23 also works well with fish dishes like grilled prawns or sushi.
Grade: Junmai daiginjo
Seimaibuai/Rich Polishing Rate: 23%
Rice: Yamada Nishiki
Get yourself a bottle of this amazing and complex sake that has won awards such as the gold 2015 Los Angeles International Wine Competition and TEXSOM International Wine Awards 2015 silver accolade. Alternatively, you could purchase it as part of a wider collection that features the Dassai 45 and 39 as well!