The story behind Dassai 23
An ever going challenge
All of our efforts are aimed towards providing our customers with a sense of satisfaction, which is worthy of us polishing a rice of the utmost quality. Dassai 23, often featured on TV and many publications for what is maybe Japan’s most extravagant rice polishing ratio, has often brought us all sorts of challenges - even between us.
The early polishing ratio
It was first planned to be a Junmai Daiginjo sake with a rice polishing ratio of 25%. The reason behind it was that, at the time we had our own Yamada-Nishiki rice field and looking at it, we thought: “let’s make Japan’s most polished sake”. It was first planned out to be polished down to 25%. I waited for the rice to begin the polishing process, before going on a business trip. This is when somebody told me a major producer from Nada was already selling a Junmai Daiginjo sake polished down to 24%. I thought about it all night, and in the train heading back home I phoned my staff, asking them to polish the rice 2% more, down to 23%. At the time, 6 days and 6 nights had passed since the polishing process started. My staff, although exhausted, reluctantly did polished 2% more, which required an additional 24 hours. This seven days and nights work period, the overall 168 hours required for polishing the rice is still unchanged as of today.
New-year sake pressing
We had a project: to deliver a customer with one bottle of Dassai 23, freshly pressed at 00:01 AM on January 1st, 2000. The customer who ordered it turned out to be a VIP in another country, some Prime Minister level customer, who wanted to have it for his private New Year party. The problem was that, and you might remember, on the 1st and 2nd of January 2000, it was a weekend. This was a liberal country so, even for a head-of-state class VIP, the products would not go through customs, an official body, for the personal pleasure of one individual. At the end, I had one of my staff on a plane, early morning of the 2nd of January. He had the bottle in his carry case, and was about to deliver it. I hear this staff spent two wonderful days in that country afterwards.
Dassai 23 – an obvious tastiness
Dassai 23, because of its rice polishing ratio of 23% is probably the most polished rice in Japan. But we do not think this sake is great because it has the best polishing ratio. We are not to be satisfied with this figure, but are striving for Japan’s best, most delicious sake. The only words we fear to hear are: “Dassai isn’t as great as I thought it to be”.
We always strive to craft a well-balanced sake, that has a gorgeous and dense aroma, a mellow taste with just the right amount of acidity to tie it all together with a long, lingering finish.
All the rice polished down to 23% actually are not bottled as Dassai 23
All throughout the year, we ferment several tanks with a 23% polished-down Yamada-Nishiki rice but, all of this sake do not automatically become Dassai 23. Actually, some of the sake we craft get downgraded and are not bottled as Dassai 23. A few years ago, a significant number of Dassai 23 did not meet our expectations so we had to downgrade them. Not only we were discouraged by the lack of quality compared to what we were expected, we were also inundated with orders for a now very limited supply of Dassai 23. This was thrilling, but also made it extremely difficult to allocate this supply to our customers.
Dassai has changed a lot, but its heart is still the same
It started out as just trying to craft a sake with a polishing ratio of 23% to craft a sake worthy of its polishing ratio. This entails to never be satisfied with the current state of things, but to always doubt oneself and reform our crafting process.
Someone even kept one of the first bottles of Dassai 23 we crafted and gifted it to me. This sake was tasty. Although it certainly would deserve the adjective “unique”, it was a tremendous blow to our sake crafting which has been driven by technique.
Please enjoy it slowly.
A variety show once featured Dassai 23, in an easy-going way, where the participants had to guess from tasting three different sake which one was the real Dassai – something that is often done with wine in this kind of comedy shows.
One of the participant soon guessed it right, saying: “This one is different from all of the sake I’ve ever tried. It tastes good, not like the bad experiences I had until now, so this must be the real Dassai”. These words greatly demonstrated what we have always been saying, that anyone could know what a good sake is just by drinking it. There are no such things as sake that only connoisseurs understand.
Anyway, what was even more interesting was what another participant said: “At first I could not get it but by slowly drinking it I could see how tasty it was”. We are of course always striving to craft Dassai 23 so that its tastiness is evident, but also to craft it so that its shows several layers of complexity.
Please drink it slowly, enjoy it slowly, so that Dassai 23 could show you all of its charms.