Asahi Shuzo

Yamaguchi, Japan

Founded in 1830 with the motto “Quality First,” Asahi Shuzo has established itself as a stalwart in the art of sake brewing. At the heart of their philosophy lies a profound belief that the quality of rice is paramount to crafting exceptional sake. One of their past Toji (master brewers) encapsulated this ethos by asserting that “The quality of sake cannot go beyond the quality of the ingredients.” This unwavering commitment to rice quality has driven Asahi Shuzo to dedicate significant time and resources to rice cultivation. To this end, they founded Asahi Noken, an agricultural production corporation, with a mission to conduct research aimed at preserving Japan’s national agriculture and improving the quality of sake rice.

Asahi Shuzo’s approach to sake production is underpinned by the careful selection of ideal sake rice. This rice boasts low protein content, a white, opaque core, and large, evenly sized grains. Their method is a harmonious blend of data accumulated over a remarkable 200-year history and the expertise of their Toji, the master brewers. Despite their rich history, Asahi Shuzo maintains an entrepreneurial spirit, unafraid to explore new sake varieties, including sparkling and low-alcohol sakes.

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In 1985, reflecting their innovative spirit, the company introduced the Kubota line. At the time, sake sales were declining locally, prompting Asahi to shift its focus to metropolitan areas. Recognizing the evolving dietary habits of city dwellers, they opted for a different type of sake called “tanrei karakuchi” – light, crisp, and dry, rather than the prevailing “hojun umakuchi” sake characterized by richness and umami. This strategic shift proved immensely successful, doubling their sales in just 15 years.

At Asahi Shuzo, the emphasis is not on driving sales or inebriation, but rather on enhancing lives with their sake. Dassai, their flagship brand, is designed to elevate one’s lifestyle through a delightful tasting experience, emphasizing quality over quantity. They are steadfast in making Dassai accessible to everyone, ensuring that it remains a sake for the enjoyment of all.

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The name “Dassai” is derived from the local term for an “otter festival,” harkening back to the days when otters frolicked in the nearby rivers of Yamaguchi Prefecture. The sake-making process at Asahi Shuzo is a meticulous and labor-intensive craft. It begins with rice washing and soaking, a process executed by hand, achieving precise water control that machines cannot match.

Sake production is a delicate fusion of tradition and innovation. Rice steaming, a crucial step, demands finesse in achieving the right balance of firmness and softness, with the traditional Japanese rice steamer, “wagama,” playing a pivotal role. Koji mold making requires an artisan’s touch, as they adapt the process to the rice’s condition. The fermentation phase, akin to a symphony, relies on precise human intervention for temperature control. Asahi Shuzo employs a cutting-edge centrifuge machine for pressing and filtering, preserving the essence of Junmai Daiginjo without compromise. Challenges persist, but Asahi Shuzo’s unwavering commitment to crafting exceptional sake keeps them pushing the boundaries of tradition and innovation in each bottle.

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