When it comes to premium sake, the Dassai brand created by the Asahi-Shuzo brewery remains a constant powerhouse. Their junmai daiginjo range has captivated drinkers across the globe and I’ll add myself to that list of evangelists. The Dassai 23, 45 and 39 rank among my favourite nihonshu and it’s intriguing to see the kind of innovations that the Asahi brewery continues to champion.
Jordan Smithcroft also enjoys Dassai sake and he’s written up a great review of the epic sparkling Dassai 45 junmai daiginjo nigori.
The pink and silver foil neck decoration sporting a capitalised English ‘SPARKLING’ is certainly attractive and reassuring to Western eyes accustomed to supermarket shelves packed with carbonated wines. However, for many the familiarity will end there.
This sparkling edition of the celebrated Dassai 45 is a secondary fermented, junmai daiginjo nigorizake (filtered through broad mesh to retain more of its Yamada Nishiki rice particles and give a thick, hazy appearance).
In simpler terms this is a unique and complex sake with a show-stopping character that charmed me into drinking a little more than I had intended during the below review tasting!
Appearance: Cloudy off-white body with small, slow-rising bubbles – like cloudy lemonade.
Nose: There is a muted fruitiness with high intensity cereal and lactose notes and just a hint of toasted nuts.
Palate: Everything from the appearance carries through here; thick and creamy mouthfeel with a definite ‘fizz’ on the tongue. The flavour is led by starchy lactose with gentle but tasty underripe melon and citrus fruit notes. The finish is extremely long and dry.
Verdict: Even those already somewhat familiar with the delicate fruitiness of a well-crafted daiginjo may be surprised to find that the dominant characteristics here are the full-bodied umami. Whilst sparkling beverages are typically more ‘sessionable’ Sparkling Dassai 45 is almost sake’s answer to Guinness; a real meal in glass!
It’s also likely to elicit similar love it / hate it reactions to the ‘Dublin breakfast’ (no prizes for guessing which camp I fall into!). Either way few would deny that it’s a pretty unforgettable nihonshu. Kanpai to that!
Grade: Sparkling junmai daiginjo nigori
Seimaibuai/Rice Polishing Ratio: 45%
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