The first time we heard about Kyoto Shuzo’s new Kyoto Miyako Distillery, I was suspicious of their connection with Matsui Shuzo. I’ve done a bit more digging. Here’s my findings.But before that, let’s quickly recap what got us to today.
July 2020: Kyoto Miyako Distillery is granted their distillation license. By September, their website is live, and mentions how they don’t want to rely on the made-in-Japan brand.
March 2021: The company goes on to release three bottles relying heavily on Kyoto branding.
They use the same trademark proxy
Trademark filings are a matter of public record.
Kyoto Miyako Distillery went through a patent firm called the Okada Patent Office to file theirs. The proxy agent on their application is listed as Masahiro Okada.
If you look at a recent trademark filing from Matsui Shuzo, say for example the subsequently rejected one for Hakuto Gin, you’ll find the same name, Masahiro Okada.
They use the same webhost
matsuiwhisky.com and kyotoshuzo.com share both a domain registrar (netowl.jp) and webhost (xserver.ne.jp).
They use the same same Google Analytics Tracking Code
I suppose it’s not impossible that the above two points could have simply been a coincidence. But if you have a look at the source code for both websites and you’ll find the exact same Google Analytics tag being called.
That’s definitely not a coincidence. It means that all of the user tracking data collected by the Google Analytics tag ends up in the same property. So whether you visit matsuiwhisky.com or kyotoshuzo.com, you’ll be counted as a user from a tracking perspective.
Training at Kurayoshi Distillery
Here’s a job listing from early 2020 for Kyoto Shuzo.
It’s for a sales position at the company. About halfway down the page, you’ll find this line:
That’s saying there’s a month-long training in manufacturing at the “Tottori Factory.” That Tottori Factory’s address is Tottori-ken, Kurayoshi-shi, Kamifurukawa 656-1. That’s the address of Matsui Shuzo’s Kurayoshi Distillery.
Why go through all this trouble?
If you already have a licensed whisky distillery and brand name, why would you go through the trouble of setting up a new company, new brand, and new distillery?
Money, duh. My guess is it’s a combination of factors. Matsui Shuzo doesn’t have a good reputation amongst fans of transparency in the whisky world. Anything they release in the future, regardless of how good it may taste, would be tainted by this history.
Here’s another theory: Matsui Shuzo is a member of JSLMA, meaning the new standards for Japanese whisky will apply to them. “Kurayoshi” and “Tottori” are proper nouns! So even if they don’t explicitly label their whiskies as Japanese whisky, they still need to disclose that it is not, in fact, Japanese whisky.
Guess who is not a member of JSLMA? Kyoto Shuzo. They have absolutely zero obligation to comply with any kind of industry body-led standard. Kyoto, Japanese whisky, whatever they want. It’s all fair game.
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