I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Dassai 45 Junmai Daiginjo is the intro daiginjo. That's not a diss-- actually, it's a universal recommendation, and I go back to Dassai all the time.
Juicy nectarine, white peach, perfectly ripe honeydew melon, banana, chestnut, tropical fruit, asian pear, strawberry, tropical flowers (plumeria! hibiscus!). cotton candy, lemon, licorice (mike and ike's), white pepper, white grapes. Basically, a big ol' bowl of everything delicious.
1) Pretty much exactly what good junmai daiginjo should be. Boisterously aromatic with an array of fresh fruit, generous, mouth-filling umami, just enough sweetness to balance out a line of astringency, and enough acidity to make the flavors taste juicy. Finally, little notes of intrigue on the finish...soft fresh herbs, maybe.
2) A Daiginjo-only brewery. That is, they only make the highest grade of sake, which uses rice polished down to 50% (or less) of its original size. Because they specialize in daiginjo, the quality is not only super dialed-in, it's also....
3) Really affordable for a daiginjo! Most start around $40-50, so to be only $32, that's pretty crazy. In addition it's polished to 45%, 5% more than it has to be, so it's even over-performing for a daiginjo.
4) A classic rags to riches story. When ownership transferred to the third generation president in the 90s, he seriously considered closing their doors. But instead he shifted focus to premium sake, global awareness, and brand relationships, and it paid off.
5) In the process of opening an American brewery at the Upstate NY Culinary Institute of America campus, with facilities to tour guests and teach culinary students how to brew.
6) Committed to sharing their success with employees, and recently announced they will be doubling salaries for all 230+ employees by 2024.
7) Named after the most adorable thing. Dassai refers to a nickname which was given to a poet, philosopher and writer in a neighboring city, for his messy habit of strewing papers all around his office. Dassai means "Otter Festival," and refers to the way river otters line up the fish they've caught on the beach, as if displaying their wares in a festival.
8) Delicious with pretty much anything, and one of the best sake for sipping by itself.
So, 8 good reasons to drink Dassai, and really there are many more. If you're new to sake, this would be my first recommendation. It's a classic by now, but for a good reason. An excellent and affordable standby.
It's also the preferred sake brand of Evangelion's Misato-san <3
Recommended serving temperature: refrigerator cold to lightly chilled.
Rice: Yamadanishiki (in fact, nearly all of it is sourced from top Hyogo "Special A" paddies, and Dassai is responsible for using almost 15% of the nation's total production!)
Yeast: Purportedly number 9, although it's currently undisclosed-- likely a blend.
Fermentation starter: sokujo
Aging: minimal; 3-6 months to soften.
Grade: Junmai Daiginjo (No spirits added-- rice only, and that rice must be milled to 50% or less).
Asahi Shuzo Co. Ltd.
Location: Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (inland, on the Higashi River).
President: currently 4th generation, Kazuhiro Sakurai
Asahi Shuzo, a relatively young Yamagata brewery founded in 1948, is really the progenitor of the premium sake trend and may be the most popular premium sake brand outside of Japan. But this wasn't the case in 1984, when 3rd generation president Hiroshi inherited a company facing bankruptcy. Like so many other breweries in the 80s, the business had been relying on declining sales of its inexpensive house brand. Cheap sake was competing with beer and losing.
At the same time, Sakurai noticed a fledgling trend in premium sake. The recent (and dramatic) improvements in brewing technology as well as the economic bubble inflating demand for premium products were driving this trend. Hoping to ride the wave, Sakurai phased out Asahi Shuzo's house brand and launched a premium daiginjo brand named “Dassai” in 1990. Sakurai focused his marketing efforts on high-end restaurants in Tokyo and eventually broke into the global export market. Asahu Shuzo invested in collaborations with chefs such as Joel Robuchon, who opened a sake bar and restaurant in Paris, as well as a 700,000 square foot brewery at the Culinary Institute of America campus in upstate New York. Asahi Shuzo is now a $100M global brand still on an upward trajectory, continuing to innovate and redefine sake throughout the world.
Asahi Shuzo NY brewery is now projected to open in Summer 2022, at which time they will introduce American-made Dassai Blue, from Japanese and Arkansas-grown Yamadanishiki rice.