Kanosuke Distillery

Komasa Jyozo's Kanosuke Distillery is in Kagoshima prefecture's Hioki. Overlooking the 47km-long Fukiage Hama, one of the longest in Japan, Kanosuke is the country's only beachfront whisky distillery. Their concept is "Mellow Land, Mellow Whisky."

Who's behind it

Unlike many shochu makers, Komasa Jyozo is no stranger to oak cask aging. That's because in 1957, the company released Mellowed Kozuru, the industry's first shochu aged in oak casks.

The company's history goes back to 1883. But it was the second-generation president, Kanosuke Komasa, who pioneered the use of oak casks for aging shochu. That's where the Kanosuke Distillery gets its name.

Current and fourth-generation president Yoshitsugu Komasa doesn't just hold a master's degree in fermentation science from the Tokyo University of Agriculture. He's also a graduate of the school of hard knocks. In his travels as a global salesman during his earlier years at Komasa Jyozo, he found that outside of Japanese expat communities, shochu wasn't easy to sell to people outside of Japan.

Making whisky, however, allows the Kanosuke Distillery to "speak the same language" as whisky makers from across the globe. It allows the company to stand on the same stage. If customers of Kanosuke Distillery's whisky look at the bigger picture and decide to give shochu a try, it's certainly a win.

What kind of whisky

The distillery is targeting mellow whisky, and thus far, their New Borns have been exactly that.

Japanese NEW BORN

Japanese Single Malt Whiskies

WHERE is it

Kagoshima prefecture is comprised of two peninsulas, with the western peninsula known as the Satsuma Peninsula. Along the coast of the East China Sea runs Fukiage Hama. It's named as such because during the winter months, winds from the north-east inland hit the beach and pick up sand. That sand gets carried to the surface of the water, creating plenty of sea spray.

With the Kanosuke Distillery being right on the beach, it gets plenty of that sea spray running through its aging warehouses.

The temperature difference in the area is also pretty significant over a year. While a lot of people might think Kagoshima to be pretty balmy year-round, the average yearly temperature is only 16.9°C. In winters snow isn't rare as the temperatures drop to around 0°C.

Like many newer craft whisky distilleries across the world, Kanosuke Distillery is geographically well-positioned for their maturation to yield results more quickly. Tasting the New Born releases from Kanosuke Distillery, you'll agree that they are quite mature given their age.

Show on Japan Distillery Map
Filter by
TitleCategoryLink

WHEN did they start

The Kanosuke Distillery acquired their distillation license in November 2017, with their first distillate entering casks in February of 2018. In June 2021, their first single malt whisky was released.

WHY is it special

Kanosuke Distillery is one of the most promising post-Chichibu craft whisky makers in Japan. While most distilleries of this size would have two pot stills, Kanosuke has three, affording them more variety in their distillate.

Then there's the location. Kanosuke Distillery isn't just blessed with fantastic sunsets over the East China Sea. The temperature differential helps the whisky breathe in and out of the casks more quickly, bringing on more mature notes at a quicker pace. The influence of sea spray should be more apparent as the years build on.

It's also interesting to see how different aspects of the company's shochu business are finding their way into the whisky operation. The June 2021 first single malt uses primarily American white oak casks, which is fairly standard. But what's not standard is what they used to contain: ordinarily we would expect ex-Bourbon barrels. In Kanosuke Distillery's case, though, they are recharred ex-shochu casks.

President Yoshitsugu Komasa is adamant that the company will not use imported whisky in their products at all. In fact, he's so dedicated to this position that the company is one of the only two craft whisky makers in Japan making grain whisky at the moment. In 2020 they began distilling grain whisky at their Hioki Distillery using their stainless steel shochu pot stills.

Tech specs

-Mash tun: 6000L stainless steel
-Washbacks: 5x stainless steel @ 7000L each
-Wash still: Miyake, 6000L, indirect heating, horizontal lyne arm, worm tub
-Spirit still 1: Miyake, 3000L, indirect heating, downward lyne arm, worm tub
-Spirit still 2: Miyake, 1600L, indirect heating, upward lyne arm, worm tub
-Warehouse: 6x racked (mixed use with Mellowed Kozuru shochu)
-Output: 200KL per annum?

Planning your visit

The Kanosuke Distillery is open to the public, for a cost of 1000 yen. Head over to their official page for more details.

PHOTO GALLERY

Images by Whiskey Richard

RELATED POSTS

Show related posts

Recent Releases, April 2021: JWRC 20th Anniversary Single Casks, Ghost #15, Kyoto Whisky, and more

This month’s roundup of recent and upcoming releases brings in a host of interesting bottles from Akkeshi, Shinshu, Chichibu, Kyoto, and more. Japan Whisky Research Centre 20th Anniversary Single Cask Chichibu, Single Cask Akkeshi Up first, and obviously near and dear to our hearts, are two single cask releases from the Japan Whisky Research Centre. […]

1 comment

Kanosuke Distillery launching single cask New Born series

Kagoshima’s Kanosuke Distillery is set to launch a new series of single cask new borns. Beginning on September 1, they will be releasing one new bottle each month, only available directly from the distillery. The series is named “Kanosuke Distillery Limited New Born.” Each bottle will feature different permutations of the stills used, wood type […]

1 comment

[Premium] Whisky Galore Interview: Yoshitsugu Komasa, Kanosuke Distillery Year 2

Komasa Jyozo celebrated their 135th birthday in 2018. Kanosuke Distillery, which launched in 2017, also enters their second year. Building upon the trials and errors of the first year, the company is aiming to take a step further in the distillery’s second season. Whisky Galore editor Mamoru Tsuchiya sits down with Komasa Jyozo president Yoshitsugu […]

0 comments

Kanosuke New Born is born

The latest whisky out of Kagoshima is Kanosuke New Born, from the new Kanosuke Distillery. As the name indicates, it’s been aged for around 8 months, being distilled only in February of this year. Importantly though, New Born has been aged in American White Oak ex-rice shochu casks, which sounds nice and funky. Like many […]

2 comments

Kanosuke New Born 2019 edition in late October

Kagoshima’s Kanosuke Distillery is updating their Kansouke New Born for late 2019. While the name of the bottle remains the same, it’s now matured for 18 months in Bourbon casks rather than 8 months in shochu casks. The 2018 edition of the New Born was quite good, I thought. Given the use of a Bourbon […]

0 comments

REFERENCES & Further reading

https://kanosuke.com/

Suwabe, Shinichi. ジャパニーズウイスキーで世界に挑む 新世代蒸留所からの挑戦状 [Taking on the World with Japanese Whisky. Challenge from New-Generation Distilleries]. Recipbook, 2019.