Day 2 of NYC Sake Week was all about Dassai! I was so happy to get an email from Toshi at Sake Hana informing me about a special Dassai event. I really like tastings that are targeted around a specific sake brand or region as it gives a wonderful focus that is missing at larger mega tastings.
Dassai means “Otter Festival”. The name comes from otters in the region of Yamaguchi prefecture parading around with fish they had caught like in a festival. Hmm. well, maybe an otter festival is something like a barrel of monkeys? Drinking Dassai is always fun, so I think it works.
Our Friend Mr. Sakurai brought some wonderful sakes from Japan that are not available in the US. This was an amazing opportunity to try the whole dassai brand offering. Except for a flight to Tokyo, there was no other way to make this happen. I also bumped into my sake friend KC who helped me a lot in understanding more about these wonderful sakes. Here’s what we tasted:
1) Dassai Sparkling Nigori: This charmer had a very slight nose but really tingled on the tongue. It’s definitely light with lots of tight small bubbles vs what you might see in champagne. The word that came to mind most with the Sparkling Nigori was “Crisp”!
2) Dassai Junmai Ginjo 50: The 50 of course refers to the rice polishing ratio of the rice. This sake is available in the US and it must be the most well known of all the sakes this brewery produces. For many it really is a gold standard against which other ginjos are judged. I just know that it’s a sure fire winner if I see it on the menu. “Yum”!
3) Dassai Junmai Ginjo 50 Nama: This sake reminded me a bit of Otokoyama Sasaori that I had at sake bar Hagi. It was slightly cloudy and had that extra dimension you get from alive namas. This sake is Unpasteurized, Unfiltered, Undiluted… “Unforgettable”!
4) Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 39: This is my new favorite sake. period! How’s that for a bold statement?! This sake was such a delight – it had just enough character, substance and dimension like the dassai 50 and just enough of the elegance and refinement like the dassai 23. It’s the perfect marriage of the two and it’s really sake harmony in a bottle. Toshi’s excellent notes on this sake say: “Some of the Dassai enthusiastic fans prefer this to Dassai 23%.” I guess that’s me! “Perfection”!
5) Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 23: This sake is a study in virtuosity. It’s a pinnacle of achievement and just plain amazing. The Yamadanishiki rice is ground down to a staggering 23% of it’s original size. KC and I agreed that they were serving this sake at the perfect temperature. The taste is refined, graceful and beyond smooth. It calls to mind the quiet yet powerful charm of the classic Chanel suit or the iconic Barcelona chair. “Elegant”!
6) Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 23 Centrifuge: This sake is produced using a centrifuge machine to separate the sake from the lees during the final stages of production. I guess this is kind of like a spin-cycle sake. I found it to taste a tad flatter than the regular Dassai 23, and with just a wisp of a nose.”High-Tech”!
7) Dassai Nigori: I’ve had the Dassai Nigori several times before and it’s always a treat. If you like nigori, you should give this one a try. “Unique”!
8) Dassai Warm 50: This is a dassai sake that is specially produced to be served warmed. It just goes to show you the level of dedication Dassai has to quality and interest in the art and science of sake production. I found this sake to have an expansive feel on the palate with hint of spice at the finish. Note that this was served only slightly warmed over. “Cozy”!
Phew! that was a lot of wonderful sake at a wonderful venue with wonderful people. Be sure to order one of these sakes your next time out and about. With the right attitude and a little Dassai in hand, any day can turn into Otter Festival.