#23 From rock bottom to success? by Hiroshi SAKURAI
In Japan, there is a famous fashion show called Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo. It was canceled in 2020 due to the spread of the COVID-19, but it is usually held in March and October every year in Tokyo, and we are one of its sponsors. Every year we serve Dassai Sparkling during the event. Dassai Sparkling is actually a sake that was born thanks to a customer.
Since about 2002, I've been selling a “Dassai Nigori” sake. Nigori sake has yeast left in it and fermentation continues to go on inside the bottle. Because of it, there were constant complaints from customers, saying that the sake would get bubbly and the cap would fly off on its own, causing the sake to spew out. One day, a young customer called us and asked if we had stopped producing “Dassai Sparkling”. We just replied that it was not one of our products since the beginning, that it was in fact a “Dassai Nigori” that got fermented after bottling. She told us that she actually loved drinking it, especially in a champagne glass because it was a bubbly, sparkling sake. It was the first time I realized that we should make it like champagne is made. Funny how this time, the customer was ahead of the producer.
At first we just used regular bottles to bottle it, and we would warn people to be careful when opening it. It had a sticker on it saying “Open carefully” but no one would actually read it. We then decided to change the name to "Dassai Sparkling", to change the bottle as well, shaping it like champagne so everybody could tell the sake would spew out if not careful. In 2010, we released a 720ml bottle of “Dassai Beyond” costing 33,000 yen. It was to compete with the wine world. Back then, there was sake costing about 10,000 yen, but no sake would cost higher than that. Wine, however, there was plenty.
I always that with the current market price for sake, it was bound to lose to wine. I wanted to go “beyond” the current situation somehow, but I wasn't sure. After four or five years, I was finally convinced that this was the way to go. The crafting method is basically the same as for other Dassai. First of all, from the special Yamada Nishiki rice used for Dassai 23, about 30% of the best rice is selected. We then polish it thoroughly. Depending on the rice origin, condition, and the use for it, the rice polishing ratio could be about 19% or 17% for example. I also had to remove the words “Junmai Daiginjo” from its label because its rice polishing ratio isn’t specific. Furthermore, all of the finished sake is not going to be bottled as “Dassai Beyond”. I would say that only about 30% of the sake is going to actually be bottle as is. It's not that we're using special ingredients or anything like that, it's just “Dassai” taken to the limit.
But because it’s a step beyond, I believe it might be challenging to fully grasp the flavor profile of Dassai Beyond on its own. For this reason, I recommend that you first enjoy Dassai 23 before moving on to Dassai Beyond: this will help it better show you its charms. By the way, it got more popular than I expected: it was until I started to sell such a sake that I realized that there actually was a market for a 30,000 yen sake.
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