At a glance
Based in Yamaguchi on the West coast of Japan's’ main island, Honshu
One of the leading global sake brands focussing on high grade sake
Numbers famously relate to the polishing ratio of the rice used
Home to the world renowned DASSAI brand, this brewery recently reoriented itself towards the pursuit of the highest quality premium sake and year round production - to the joy of sake lovers everywhere. Not to be confused with beer brewery of the same name!
The Asahi Shuzo is a relative newcomer in sake terms, starting sake operations in 1948. Largely producing Futsushu (non-premium sake) under the brand name Asahifuji the brewery was fairly unremarkable and at risk of going out of business as large-scale operators began to dominate the cheaper end of the sake market.
Skip forward to the early 1990s and it was clear that radical change was required to compete and grow sales outside of the local Yamaguchi prefecture. Step in president Hiroshi Sakurai. Leading the breweries Sales efforts - as well as taking the reigns as Toji (head brewer) for a short spell - Hiroshi listened to customers and began to form the vision that would lead to the transformation of the brewery. The transformation was essentially to pivot the product and brand toward premium sake with global appeal. This meant a sole focus on high-grade junmai diaginjo with a taste profile that would suit the Western, wine-drinking palatte. The brews singled-out for export used a simple intuitive numerical naming (50, 39, and 23) that referred to the polishing ratios used, and (along with those product’s price points) have contributed to the misconception that the lower the polishing ratio, the “better” the sake.
The name Dassai, translates as "otter festival", and the story goes, long ago a family of otters playing in the nearby rivers would lay out the fish that they catch on the shore, almost as if they are showing them off in a festival.
Their mission “never become complacent with existing tradition and handcrafted techniques, but rather we want to reform and revolutionize how some things are done, and in so doing make superior sake.”
Visit their website here