Ota Shuzo has traditionally focused on highlighting sake produced with ingredients from their province of Mie, such as local yeast strains MK-1 and MK-3 and the Kami No Ho rice. This, and their high quality, is why their sake was served to world leaders at the G7 summit in Mie in 2016. But recently Ota Shuzo, led by the youngest toji in the province, has ventured more into modern sake as well, launching the Hanzo & brand which is specifically made for an audience accustomed to wine.
Ota Shuzo is a brewery straddling the divide between traditional and modern sake as well as any we have seen. On the traditional side we have their Hanzo brand, established 25 years ago and named after the legendary Hattori Hanzo, who hailed from the Iga area where the brewery is located and who was perhaps the most famous Ninja of his time and retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the legendary unifier of Japan. This line of sake is brewed with local rice and local yeast varieties MK-1 and MK-3, and feature a more traditional taste that focuses on the flavor of the rice. While they go well with food, they are not specifically made as “food sake” but rather to showcase the individuality of the local ingredients.
On the modern side we have the Hanzo & brand, created by the youngest toji of the prefecture and made with a realization that a new type of consumer, more used to wines, is looking for a different sake. They are sake that challenge the traditional norms and are made with rice and yeast varieties from all over Japan. Furthermore, these sake are not static, they are alive, meaning that they will evolve over time and that every year’s batch will be slightly different, reflecting the changing demands of modern consumers.
Whether you prefer the more traditional line of sake or the modern, winelike Hanzo &, you're making a great choice. We personally love Hanzo sake and look forward to how their sake develop in the future.