Skip to content

Sake Spotlight – Brad Russell Looks at Dassai 23

Ha! It’s been a while since we had a Sake Spotlight. What’s a Sake Spotlight? Well it’s a chance for a sake enthusiast to speak to and about a brew that speaks to them. It’s a way to break down a sake and give it another view or angle. It’s also a chance to read something from somebody other then me and that is awesome!

Sake Spotlight on Dassai 23 February 2015a

This Sake Spotlight comes from a huge supporter of True Sake and a real friend to the sake industry. Brad Russell has been doing the sake thing for years and I am honored to have his unique take on a very special sake called Dassai 23! Take it away Brad:

Your first love is unforgettable, especially when it’s a knockout.

Dassai 23 is a knockout.
It’s an elegant beauty, polished to perfection; it smells of fresh cut pineapple and wild flowers. The bottle’s dressed in a textured white cotton label with bold black kanji stroked across the front, the top wrapped in purple paper tied together by a darker purple, dangling, thin rope.

This sake needs no more spotlight; it’s in fact overexposed. To some it’s become the “vogue sake”. It’s the equivalent of the band you loved first, who’d perform off campus at the local club in your college days, and now they sell out amphitheaters owned by cellular providers.

Beau has had the faith and amazing generosity to offer me a chance to spotlight a sake for the newsletter…and I squander it by choosing Dassai 23, The White Album of sakes? A choice lacking in sake street cred, which is something I certainly thirst for from you sake connoisseurs.

So, why did I make this choice? Dassai 23 brought me into the sake world. It was my first love. I had to know everything about it, and that journey began my sake education. Before my first intense affair with a Namazake, or sip of a Koshu, I went on a quest to find this mythical little 300ml bottle of Yamaguchi treasure, and that adventure sparked my passion for sake.

I first made it into the True Sake Newsletter with a photo of that bottle. Hours after my son had safely entered this world I toasted his birth with a small ochoko, overflowing with Dassai 23, under the moonlight on the top level of the hospital parking deck as tears rolled down my smiling cheeks.

Dassai’s price, glamor, and profile continue to grow and purists have their legitimate criticisms (the so called “Polishing Race”, for example). For us, though, the sake initiated, we know Dassai may not be the marrying type; but it certainly should be the bottle you pick up if ever in need of a sure thing, a knock out to convert some of those still out there waiting to fall in love with their first sake.
-Brad Russell

  • (My name is Brad Russell. I am a passionate and novice drinker, reader, teacher, and photographer of Japanese sake. I’ve loved Japanese culture all my life: film, food, art, and most recently sake. I operate, a website dedicated to helping folks around the Carolinas find and learn about true craft sake. Beau Timken’s work has been a major source of inspiration for me. He’s pushed me to learn more and go further down the sake stream.)

Thank you Brad and rock on! If you want to see some of Brad’s pictures they were recently printed in a local rag. Check out his FB page

North Carolina Sake


Also, we have been selling a ton of Dassai over the past decade as it is a fan favorite. If you want to explore their other Daiginjo’s before jumping straight for the 23, here are the reviews for the 50/39/ 23. (We also sell their highest end sake called “Beyond” for $750, but only have one more bottle left in stock until they send more in March (we are taking pre-orders after the last bottle is sold.)


Dassai 50 “Otter Festival”
Yamaguchi Prefecture. Junmai Daiginjo. SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.4 This sake has an older brother Daiginjo that has an industry leading milling rate of 23%, but I refer to this sake as a Daiginjo itself because of its 50% polishing rate. Dassai 50 has collection of sweet aromas including grape juice, cotton candy, and a hint of lemonade. Talk about a sake with body! This uber Ginjo has a full-figured flavor that rushes chewy fruit tones to all corners of your mouth. It is wide and heavy with lots of expansive elements that talk to those who like a mouthful. Pay attention for a hint of anise and sneaky, mild veggie aftertaste. The subtle sweetness including grape and berries becomes more pronounced when the fluid warms in the mouth. WORD: Chunky WINE: Pinot Noire / Chewy Whites BEER: Ales FOODS: Mushroom risotto, tempura, fried chicken, caviar, smoked salmon pate.

Dassai 39

Dassai 39 “Otter Festival”
Yamaguchi Prefecture. Junmai Daiginjo. SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.3 This Daiginjo fits in between Dassai “50” and “23” in terms of milling rates and is both similar and different to its sister brews. The nose is fruity with koji rice, apple, honeydew, and strawberry aromas. A very plush sake that is loaded with fruit basket flavors and has a very wine-like acidity presence with a long finish. Chewy, round, and soft, but bright – go figure! Hints of pear, apple, blueberry and honeydew on a fleshy fluid that is lively and velvety. “39” drinks almost nama-like and beware of fruit flies who will surely find your glass within minutes. WORD: Velvet WINE: Plump Reds/Smooth Whites BEER: Soft Ales FOODS: Clean fare, elegant flavors, fruit salads, avocado salads, cheese plates.

Dassai 23 “Otter Festival”
Yamaguchi Prefecture. Junmai Daiginjo. SMV: +4 Acidity: 1.3 Say hello to one of the most polished sakes in Japan. This sake has been milled to 23% and it is in a class by itself. With a nose of grapes, flowers, strawberries and mineral water the flavor is as luscious as the aroma. Dassai is a clean and plump Daiginjo with chapters of flavors wrapped in a deep and layered structure. Look for hints of brown sugar, fleshy plums and minerals, and the closer to room temp., the more it tastes like water. WORD: 23% WINE: Merlot/soft Chardonnay BEER: Soft ales FOODS: Best to drink as is!

Previous article “Ask Beau” – “How long can sake stay open in the fridge really?”