Diageo invests in Japanese whisky newcomer

September 13, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

Diageo has made a minority investment in Komasa Kanosuke Distillery, producer of ultra-premium single-malt whiskies based in Kagoshima, Japan.

Distill Ventures, the independently operated and Diageo-backed drinks accelerator, managed the deal with the investment set to facilitate increased production of the Japanese whisky, new product development, and the expansion of its international sales and marketing teams.

Frank Lampen, founder and CEO of Distill Ventures (DV), said: “Yoshitsugu Komasa and his team are producing wonderful whiskies in a stunning distillery with one of the most beautiful tasting rooms anywhere in the world, and we’re excited to assist him and the team in introducing Kanosuke Distillery to whisky drinkers around the world.”

The investment agreement envisages a transition to a 50:50 joint venture ownership structure with Diageo, subject to future performance. Until that point, Kanosuke Distillery will benefit from the support of Diageo and the DV’s team, joining Denmark’s Stauning Whisky, Australia’s Starward Whisky and Oregon’s Westward American Single Malt Whiskey in Distill Ventures’ portfolio of outstanding new world whisky brands.

Established in 2017 by Komasa Jyozo, a 138-year-old Shochu producer, Komasa Kanosuke Distillery launched its first single malt whisky in June this year. The release of this three-year old whisky will be followed by further limited cask-strength releases before the expected launch of its flagship single malt brand in 2022.

The distillery won awards at the World Whisky Awards (Best Japanese New Make in 2019 and 2020) and the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition (2019 and 2021).

Yoshitsugu Komasa, founder and CEO of Kanosuke Distillery said: “We are proud of our accomplishments to date, including the barrel-ageing and other production techniques developed during Komasa Jyozo’s long history of Shochu production and the awards we have won in both domestic and international competitions.”

Mr Komasa said that the support from Diageo and DV will enable them to build their following both in Japan and worldwide.

Kanosuke Distillery single malt whisky is distilled, matured and bottled in Kyushu, the most southerly of Japan’s four main islands. Situated on Japan’s longest sand beach, the distillery features a stunning tasting room called The Mellow Bar, orientated to allow visitors to appreciate the sun setting into the East China Sea as they enjoy the distillery’s whiskies.

Sam Fischer, Diageo’s President Asia Pacific and Global Travel said: “We are honoured that Kanosuke Distillery has joined the Distill Venture’s portfolio. 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.”

As with all brands within the Distill Venture’s portfolio, the founders, Komasa Jyozo Co., Ltd, retain majority ownership and control of the Kanosuke Distillery and continue to be responsible for all production, marketing and sales.

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