Dassai is a well-established sake brewery in Yamaguchi, Japan. Dassai Blue is an expansion of the brand into the U.S. where earlier this year they opened a large, ambitious new brewery in Hyde Park, New York. Although built upon the experience of Dassai, the new brewery is creating its own line of sake, and today we will be trying two of them, Type 50 and Type 23. Both are Junmai Daigingo, typically the most expensive grade of sake, which means they are brewed using rice that has been very well polished and include no additives or additional alcohol. The number on each of the sakes refers to how polished the rice is that is used to make it. The rice for Type 50 has been polished down to 50% of its original size (50% is the minimum requirement for a sake to be Daigingo). Type 23 uses rice polished down to 23% of its original size and as a result is naturally more expensive. Both are currently made with rice imported from Japan, but there are plans to begin using American rice in the near future. All other aspects of production are built upon meticulous Japanese practices but are done at the new brewery. Let’s open them up and see how they compare to sake imported from Japan.
Dassai Blue Type 50 Junmai Daigingo Sake – The nose opens with a bit of licorice before bursting with bold, ripe, almost musty cantaloupe, followed by hard pineapple candy. The palate follows suit with more cantaloupe, sweet pineapple, and, on the finish, a very faint umami note with just a hint of brine. The sake begins a bit sweet but grows less so as you work through the glass. I tried this sake cold and then hot, and it worked well both ways. The assertiveness of the nose and palate goes beyond what is typical for sake and seems designed to appeal to American drinkers, but it is done quite well, and I think this would be an excellent introduction to sake for beginners: affordable, approachable, and delicious. A- / $25
Dassai Blue Type 23 Junmai Daigingo Sake – This sake is clearly related to the Type 50, but comes across is softer. The nose shows enticing honeydew, Asian pear, and cucumber notes, along with a light whiff of licorice. The palate introduces lightly salted honeydew, with cucumber arriving midpalate and a wisp of umami appearing on the finish. This is a complex, well-integrated sake that is less assertive than Type 50, but still shows itself as quite bold. A / $72