Review: Single Malt Kanosuke 2021 First Edition

One of the most anticipated releases of 2021 from Japan's craft whisky scene is out of the Kanosuke Distillery in Kagoshima: their first ever single malt Japanese whisky. Let's take a look.

Kanosuke Distillery has rapidly emerged as one of the most promising new Japanese whisky distilleries. Komasa Jyozo was already well-known within Japan for their shochu, being a pioneer of aging rice shochu in oak casks with a bottle called Mellowed Kozuru. Outside of Japan, however, fourth-generation company president Yoshitsugu Komasa found the world mostly unreceptive of Japan's native spirit.

He decided to change tactics, looking instead to gin and whisky to elevate the brand and company to the world stage. The Kanosuke Distillery was born in 2017, and new make started rolling out in February 2018. For more details about Kanosuke Distillery, check out my trip report to the distillery from earlier this year.

Single Malt Kanosuke 2021 First Edition uses primarily ex-shochu casks, American oak, that previously held the above-mentioned Mellowed Kozuru. Given the level of maturity we saw with the distillery's new borns despite their young age, there's a lot of anticipation that this 3-year whisky will deliver an experience similar to what you'd expect from a significantly more mature whisky. Let's find out if it lives up.

Review: Single Malt Kanosuke 2021 First Edition

Nose: Prunes, dates, sweet and juicy oranges, figs, blackcurrant, butter. All while you're sitting in a lumberyard.

Palate: The warmth of sunset, sweetness of oak, a blend of spices and ginger. Later, toast with butter and cinnamon.

Finish: Oaky, chocolatey spices keep going and going and going.

Score: A

Price paid: 13,750 yen, 700ml, 58% abv

Looking back to my 2018 review of Kanosuke New Born from 3.5 years ago, it's safe to say that if you liked that bottle, definitely pick this one up. You'll find a lot of the same notes, particularly in the nose. Importantly, the cask influence isn't overbearing: that fruity, spicy, mellow joy of Kanosuke is still front and center. My guess is the sweet spot for Kanosuke will be 6-7 years, so get in at this halfway point while you still can.

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