Just In 👉 Nikka Whisky Celebrates 90th Anniversary With The...

News & New Releases

Diageo invests in Kanosuke Distillery

You think Diageo was swayed by our WhiskyDex on Kanosuke Distillery?

Was our storytelling and visuals so provocative they couldn't just stop at one bottle, they had to go for the whole distillery.

Well, not the whole distillery, but Johnnie Walker's Diageo is acquiring a minority stake in Kanosuke Distillery.

If you don't know about Kanosuke Distillery, don't sleep on it! This is big because it is Diageo's first foray into Japanese whiskies. Could an Asian expansion be in the works?


The inaugural Kanosuke release. (Image Source: Kanosuke Distillery)

We'll give you quick recap on Kanosuke Distillery:

Kanosuke’s motto is “Mellow Land, Mellow Whisky”, but they weren't always in the whisky business.

Komasa Jyozo started out as a Shochu maker, and is currently run by fourth-generation president Yoshitsugu Komasa. Despite being the scion of the Shochu maker, he has his start as a salesman for Komasa Jyozo, where he found himself having trouble marketing Shochu outside of Japan. When his time came and he took over the company, he decided that for the world to gain interest in his family's Shochu, he had to speak the global language: whisky.


Founder Yoshitsugu has a vision to draw the world back to Shochu. (Image Source: Forbes)

Whisky had broader global appeal, and Yoshitsugu believes that through whisky, he can get people interested in his family's traditional Japanese Shochu. It's not any Shochu by the way. His family pioneered oak aging of Shochu which could give the spirit more complex and deeper flavors. This resulted in award-winning Mellowed Kozuru.

Komasa Jyozo first made it's big break in barrel-aged Shochu, producing Mellowed Kozuru. (Image Source: Shizuku)

Kanosuke Distillery is located in Kagoshima and finds itself in Japan’s longest sand beach, an area called Fukiagehama, which cuts through three municipalities. It is a beautiful, white strip that stretches as far as the eye can see, and faces the East China Sea.

The area got its name because during the winter, strong howling inland winds consume the beach and in the process pick up sand which when combined with the surface of the water, creates bountiful sea sprays. This phenomenon is created by the temperature differentials between the warmer Kagoshima inlands and the colder East China Seas.

As Kanosuke Distillery faces the pristine blue ocean, the distillery’s warehouses are ventilated with plenty of sea spray, which comes through in the flavors of its whiskies.


Kanosuke Distillery faces the gorgeous blue ocean, but this actually has an impact on the whisky too. (Image Source: Tojo)

Due to temperature differentials and a windy environment, the dynamic climate is primed for an accelerated maturation as casks are able to “breathe” more and hence age faster.

When you’ve been in the spirits business for as long as four generations, you’re bound to have some ideas about how to make a good drink.


You don't stay in the spirits business for more than 100 hundreds without some ideas about how to make a distinctively good whisky. 

For one, where there’s Komasa Jyozo, you’ll also find Shochu, or at least something of Shochu origin. With Kanosuke’s whiskies, this will come in the form of Shochu casks that will be used for maturation, which will also happen in Shochu warehouses.

For more on Kanosuke Distillery, check out our WhiskyDex here.

(Image Source: Ad Week)

This deal is momentous, that should be said, as it is Diageo's first foray into Japanese whiskies. This will be parked under Distill Ventures, which is a drinks incubator belonging to Diageo, started in 2013.

The goal of the investment is to boost Kanosuke's whisky production, development of new products and expansion of global sales and marketing.

“Diageo has long heritage and expertise in whisky with many of our brands reflecting the work of generations of the same family. We are excited to be supporting this high-quality brand in the fast-growing Japanese whisky category, with the next stage of its growth and development.”

Sam Fischer, Diageo President for Asia Pacific and Global Travel

It's key to note that Komasa Jyozo, the family-run company behind the distillery will retain a majority ownership and continue to manage day to day operations.


Smiley, smiley, VC money. (Image Source: Komasa Jyozo)

Depending on the progress of the distillery, the deal includes an option for the partnership to move into a more immersive joint venture.

“We are proud of our accomplishments to date, including the barrel-ageing and other production techniques developed during Komasa Jyozo’s long history of shōchū production and the awards we have won in both domestic and international competitions.

Now, with the strong and strategic support from global alcoholic beverages leader Diageo and Distill Ventures through this partnership, we are very happy that we will be able to pursue growing our business further and provide more whisky drinkers in Japan and worldwide with Japanese craft whiskies from Kanosuke Distillery.”

Yoshitsugu Komasa, Founder of Kanosuke Distillery

Distill Ventures has been on a relentless pace, having made a number of minority investments since its launch, including Australian Starward Distillery, US-based Westward and Denmark's Stauning Distillery.

Perhaps Kanosuke's whiskies will be coming to us sooner than you think.