As you might have heard, recent flooding in western Japan has left thousands of people in emergency shelters, killed more than 200, and caused unimaginable damage across several prefectures. Yamaguchi is in the area of flooding, but luckily was much less harder hit than Hiroshima or Okayama.
However, one exception is the Asahi Shuzo brewery, makers of Dassai.
Asahi Shuzo is located in a small mountain valley not far from where I am, and although it is on high ground, the flow of water from further uphill ended up washing rocks and debris right through the grounds, seriously damaging the cold storage house and causing a long power outage.
The result is that about 900,000 1.8l bottles worth of sake was lost, as well as 10 tons of Yamada nishiki rice, and much of the in-production moromi was spoiled. According to the Mainichi, current damage estimates are in the 1.4-1.5 billion yen range (more than US$10 million).
No staff were injured, luckily.
So now, the only Dassai that exists is what is already on the market. They aren’t sure if the finished sake currently in the tanks will be released (it should be OK but not up to current Dassai standards). A couple of articles, including the Mainichi linked above, suggest they are considering releasing it under another label. Of course, no new Dassai can be made until the kura is completely cleaned and repaired, work that could take months. Add to that the brewing time, and it could be well into 2019 (even 2020?) before any new Dassai is on the market.
It’s hard to say what this means for the company. They’ve lost a couple of seasons of production, and it’s going to cost a fortune to get the kura back in top shape. However, if they’ve got insurance and savings they should be able to come out the other side. It’s hard to imagine them going out of business over this, but at the same time they’re not making any money right now (assuming the product in the market was already paid for by wholesalers).
I have my own not completely positive opinions about Asahi’s business plans, but I by no means wish them ill and I hope very much that they will be back on their feet soon.
(Please, if you could, take some time to consider donating to the relief efforts. You can find organizations here: Relief Organizations in Western Japan).