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Kanosuke x Thompson Bros and Tony Reeman-Clarks’s private Strathearn

By February 6, 20232 Comments

I feel I can make a pretty good judgment on how a whisky will look in the future based on the profile of the new make.  The building blocks are all there, you can estimate the cut points, distillation regime and fermentation conditions.  Combined with the types of flavours present the levels of mouthfeel and chemical complexity you can make an informed imagining of how that spirit will look with maturation.  

In January 2019 I was able to taste Kanosuke New Pot and New Born in Bar Shamrock in Kagawa prefecture and I was impressed with the spirit quality and could see this wasn’t your standard cookie-cutter distillery and that something special was going on.

In October 2020 as our independent bottling operation was accelerating, I started annoying Kanosuke about a possible project.  I wasn’t getting any response at this time but luckily a good friend of ours Tatsuya Ishihara was also friends with Naoko Serikawa, Liquid/Quality Manager at Kanosuke.  As we discussed the project, we were also able to talk about production and I learnt a little more about Shochu with Ishihara-San helping to translate the technical answers to my technical questions.

Kanosuke Distillery was founded in Kagoshima by Yoshitsugu Komasa, a 4th generation Shochu producer who specialises in oak-matured shochu at Komasa Jyozo.  Kanosuke is adjacent to Komasa Jyozo and even uses re-charred ex-Shochu casks for maturation (something I was initially sceptical about but I have come to enjoy).  The distillery has 3 pot stills but these are not entirely dedicated to triple distillation but rather as options for varying production styles for in-house blending as each still is setup differently although all 3 stills have worm tub condensers (as Shochu also uses worm tubs).

Owing to the arrangement of Serikawa-San and Yo Kawaguchi, Chief Secretary at Kanosuke, we were able to select a cask from Kanosuke, we did this blind without knowing cask types or other details.  I was surprised to find that our favourite cask was ex-Shochu reracked in ex-Bourbon!

Hans Dillese, Dutch artisté and great friend, worked on a special woodcut print of Kanosuke “Sunset by the sea”. 10 were made and are currently still available here with #1 on display at Kanosuke distillery.

Our good friend Tatsuya Ishihara now works in Kanosuke because of this project (Head of Finance and Operations)!

Takuhei Kimura, our Japan importer, helped us with the deal and logistics, with be releasing half the bottling in Japan at the same time as us.

The teams at Thompson Bros, Kanosuke and Kimura Co. are proud to present Cask #20463, the first bottling for the UK from Kanosuke!

Tony Reeman-Clark’s Strathearn Spirited Angels

Tony Reeman-Clark’s Strathearn Spirited Angels series is coming to its crescendo.  Tony co-founded Strathearn Distillery and the Scottish Craft Distillers Association (SCDA).  Strathearn is important as the first of the new wave of small Scottish distillers.  Previously the minimum still size allowed in the UK was 1800L and Tony’s was able to push for a relaxation of this rule allowing for the rich micro-distilling industry in the UK to begin.  Without Strathearn, there wouldn’t be a Dornoch Distillery!

We first met during the build-out of Strathearn distillery in 2013 where I petitioned for Strathearn to adopt some of the principles of old-style production.  After a stint helping out at the distillery, I was able to convince Tony to allow me to go all out and attempt to produce an old-style whisky.  Armed with an old Scottish brewing strain of yeast, Marris Otter Barley and a bank of wooden washbacks made from hogsheads we were able to run extra-long fermentations (14 days I think), slow distillations and cut points made by sense.  We even had a Sponge to assist with mashing and the spirit cuts were made by the committee during the Pre-War Whisky Tour in 2014.  Cask 27a now resides in Dornoch.

Photos were taken on a potato camera 🙂

(Yoshitsugu Komasa also spent some time working at Strathearn in the early days.  It’s a small whisky world)

Tony was always there to answer questions on regulations, HMRC and distilling-related matters.  His easy openness and willingness to help is one of the reasons we are always happy to help out with other new distilleries looking for help and advice.

When Tony asked us about warehouse and bottling options for his private casks, we were happy to help by bottling and selling the series on his behalf.  Spirited Angels are some of the earliest productions at Strathearn, a time of experimentation and openness.  

Tony himself delivered the printed glass and helped bottle the series and it was a pleasure to work with Tony again.

To finish this series, release 7 of 7, we introduce Strathearn cask 001, the first ever cask filled at Strathearn from the first ever spirit distillation, matured in an octave for 9 years and yielding 51 bottles*

With 001 being the first run through the stills, there are no heads and tails from the previous batch, making this a unique style amongst a unique series.

*Tony had exactly 51 bottles made based on my reguage but the cask yielded 53 bottles so there are 2 “Error 502” bottles which we’ll probably open for our bar. 

Vhairi Mackay

Author Vhairi Mackay

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Paul Snaith says:

    Thank you for the articles Vhairi, an enjoyable and informative read.
    It’s great to get an insight and to learn the history behind bottlings.
    It adds something extra to the bottle and liquid knowing it’s story 😊🥃.
    Paul. S.


    thanks for those posts Vhairi, it’s always great to learn about the “backstage” of those bottlings ! 🙂

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