Japanese Sake Series: Daishichi Sake Brewery
Daishichi’s internationally renowned and award-winning Japanese sake proves how combining tradition and innovation has been the true recipe of their success.
A place where tradition and innovation meet – that is Daishichi Sake Brewery. From polishing the rice to brewing, bottling and maturation; they hold fast to traditional artisanal methods but also strive to make technical innovations. Daishichi is synonymous with ‘kimoto’, the highest level of sake brewing; and here, tradition and innovation go hand in hand. They use only ‘Yamada Nishiki’ and ‘Gohyakumangoku’ sake rice, paying close attention to its cultivation and working closely with the farmers. Daishichi makes no compromises on quality at any stage of the process, from their breweries to their suppliers; and holds fast to their traditional artisanal methods while also striving to make technical innovations.
History and background
Historic sake brewing
Established in 1752 (the 2nd year of the Horeki period), Daishichi’s history began when Saburouemon Ohta and his family moved from the old Ise province to Nihonmatsu. From that time, until the present 10th generation, Daishichi has always insisted on a strictly orthodox brewing tradition: the kimoto method. Daishichi’s rich, mellow sakes are all outstanding examples of kimoto sake. At the time of founding, the sake was called “Oyama.” The 8th generation head, who revived the company in modern times, changed the brand name to “Daishichi,” incorporating part of the name “Shichiuemon,” which is assumed by each head of the family in turn. In his time, Daishichi was designated as the official sake for the formal enthronement of the Showa Emperor in 1928. In 1938, Daishichi was named Grand Champion in the prestigious Japan Sake Awards, spreading the brand across Japan.
In the early years of the 20th century, simpler methods of brewing, like ‘yamahai’ and ‘sokujomoto’, were developed by the National Research Institute of Brewing, and soon spread all over the country. The 8th Shichiuemon was one of the first to experiment with sokujomoto, but came to the conclusion that only the kimoto method produced sake that fulfilled his ideals. At a time when breweries around the country were giving up the kimoto method, he continued to defend the brewing method. Despite the recent boom in light and dry sake, Daishichi has continued to pursue technical improvements to take advantage of kimoto’s powerful qualities. Daishichi became the first brewery in the history of the Japan Sake Awards to win the Gold Medal with a junmai sake made with the traditional kimoto method, firmly establishing its position as a leader in kimoto brewing.
On one hand, Daishichi has introduced innovations such as the super-flat rice polishing method, developed in-house; as well as Japan’s first anoxic bottling system. On the other hand, Daishichi has also made efforts to deepen and respect its traditions. A few examples of this are the new Japanese cast iron cauldrons and the construction of a dedicated facility for brewing in wooden vats. Daishichi has also revived various cultural traditions connected with sake making. In 2006, its head of rice polishing, Yoshio Ogata, received the award of “Contemporary Master Craftsman” from the Japanese government; and in 2016, the same honour was awarded to its master brewer, Takanobu Sato. Daishichi is the only sake brewery that has produced Contemporary Master Craftsmen in both rice polishing and sake brewing.
Inside Daishichi brewery
Daishichi seeks to spread the art of sake brewing, and therefore, were quick to shift their attention to the world outside Japan. At present, Daishichi exports to more than 20 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Daishichi is held in very high esteem on the world stage: they have, for example, provided sake for the toast at the G8 Toyako Summit and for a European royalty gala dinner, and their sake is served in some of the most exclusive restaurants abroad. Daishichi continues to win awards, such as the Governor’s Award at the First Fukushima Industrial Awards (2016) and the Prize of the Minister of Economic Affairs at the Seventh Monozukuri Japan Awards (2018). In this way, Daishichi goes on making sake history.
When brewing sake, they have five clear ideals. These are: spread the value of sake around the world, exclusively use the orthodox kimoto method, draw out the potential of raw materials, bring the aesthetics of flavour to the world, and, finally, the conviction that thoroughly focusing on those ideals will be a door to world-wide reputation. From Japan to the world, their hearts are set on making only the best. Distilling human knowledge and expertise, Daishichi aspires to provide deep and powerful flavours combined with traditional refinement techniques.