The Award Winning Sake Brewery
Gassan, also known as Yoshida Sake Brewing Co., Ltd., is located in the small village of Yasugi. Yasugi is in the very Southernmost Japanese Prefecture of Shimane. The Kura, or brewery, was founded in 1743 and present owner Tomonori Yoshida-san's family took over the property in 1826; hence Yoshida-san is the 5th generation of family involvement and ownership with the Kura.
Over 200 years ago around Yasugi, the Amago-clan was reigning over the Sanin district. There, the clan established a castle where the feudal lord of Amago resided in the Age of Civil Wars. "GASSAN", took its premium sake brand name from the mountain in this area.
Their time-honored tradition of sake brewing was established by special permission from the feudal lord of the House of Hirose. They have proudly maintained this tradition, handing down brewing secrets from generation to generation for over 180 years. Their sake has received the gold award over ten times at the "Zenkoku Shinsyu Kanpyou Kai" (National New-Brewed Sake Contest), the foremost and authoritative contest in the Sake industry.
Gassan produces Tobin Sake or competition sakes from 18-liter tobins. The Tobin sake is very limited in production, but is marketed.
About their Fine Sake:
Production is small at 700 Koku (or 14,000 9-liter cases in wine terms). Seven sake types are produced here by the ageless Master Toji, Tanaka-san, who is 84 years young. At artisanal breweries like Gassan, water is all important and all of the water is sourced from mountain springs around Yasugi.
Typical of Western Style Sakes, their Nihon-Shu is big-boned, rich and round, and balanced with lactic acid.
Why they received so many awards?
To make quality sake, it really depends on the water, Sake Rice, and Toji's Skills.
The Water Source:
Their sake is brewed with fine and super soft water (low iron content), which the lord of the House of Hirose used in their tea ceremonies at the end of the Edo period (late 1800s).
The water Gassan uses for their sake is recognized as one of the 100 best waters in Japan. It was also known as one of the highest quality waters in the "Fumai-style tea ceremony." Furthermore, as water varies according to climate conditions, they specially blend in other water sources to precisely control water hardness to maintain their exact brewing requirements.
The Sake Rice:
Gassan does not hesitate to use high quality rice even though it may cost them. They focus on making outstanding sake for sake lovers. The sake mai or rice types used are: Yamada, Nishiki, Gohyakumangoku, Sakanishiki, Kairyoomachi, and Kannumai.
The Master Toji's skills are superior to others:
The Master Toji Tanaka-san, is certified as "modern master craftsman" by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Highly-skilled people (a wide variety of things such as an entertainment, food, metalwork, machine appliance assembling, repair, the sewing of clothes, carpenter) can be certified as "modern master craftsman" because the Japanese government wants Masters to pass the technique to the younger generation. Highly-skilled people in the areas of entertainment, cooking, metal working, machine and appliance assembling and repairing, sewing, and carpentry can also be certified as "modern master craftsman."
Tanaka-san is also passing all of his skills to younger toji, Adachi-san. The uniqueness of Gassan is the mixture of classic and modern Toji skills that effect the flavor in the end.
Tomonori Yoshia-san is certified as a Sake Expert Assessor and can be called a "top taster," just like a Master Sommelier in the wine world. This certificate is presented by the Alcoholic Beverage Research Institute, the best liquor research organization in Japan. The certification exam is extremely difficult, and as a result, only 50 people have achieved certification. Yoshida-san is number 2 out of these 50. Currently, there are about 1,300 Kura existing in Japan, but most Kurabito (brewery people) do not hold such a certificate. You need not only knowledge of sake, but also tasting skills to be certified.
The producer, Yoshida-san, is giving a 100% effort to create high quality sake. Above all results, Gassan's sake is a world-class sake. Gassan's sake is very easy and smooth to drink. Their constant pursuit of perfection has led to success at a national level. Now this high quality sake is available in the U.S.