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Whisky Reviews

Kanosuke Hioki Pot Still, 51% ABV


It might surprise some, but before there was Kanosuke Distillery, there was Hioki Distillery - yes, Kanosuke's parent, Komasa Jyozo, which many might know for its pioneering Mellowed Kozuru shochu, does its shochu-making at Hioki!

As the story goes, Kanosuke Distillery is named after Kanosuke Komasa, the second generation head of the family's shochu brewery Komasa Jyozo, but stood out for being the first to introduce a long aged barrel shochu, the rice shochu (or kome shochu) known as Mellowed Kozuru - this was a big hit at the time in the 1950s and garnered the brewery great acclaim.

Nonetheless the past decades have seen quite a steady decline in shochu consumption (albeit alittle bit of a resurgence lately) which prompted the establishing of the whisky arm that is Kanosuke Distillery. As the Hioki facility saw less and less use, it was initially used to produce Komasa Gin (quite popular as well), and then more recently retrofitted to produce grain whisky and other whisky styles to complement Kanosuke Distillery. The idea here is to get two birds with one stone - as the shochu activity at Hioki comes down, there's more downtime which in turn can be used to supplement the production of other more popular spirits such as gins and whiskies.


The Hioki Distillery.


As such, it's more than likely we'll hear more from Hioki with time as it'll play a bigger role in Kanosuke's whisky ambitions in helping to produce much needed locally distilled grain whiskies for the use of creating Japanese whisky blends for Kanosuke.

And thus this is the first instance we're getting to try something from the Hioki Distillery. It's made using a combination of unmalted and malted barley and then distilled in a pot still, which Kanosuke likens to the process used by Irish whiskey distilleries. It is aged in Virgin American White Oak Casks and Bourbon barrels, and aged for about 3.5 years old before bottling at 51% ABV.

Let's go!

Kanosuke Hioki Pot Still, 51% ABV - Review


Tasting Notes

Color: Gold

Aroma: Incredibly aromatic - black sugar, caramel custard, black tea, red apples, orange marmalade, honey lemon candy, that then moves into denser scents of cooked plums, dried apricots and dried herb roots. There’s even a little bit of bubblegum in there. It’s fruity but overall denser and darker in profile.

Taste: Dense, darker cooked fruits - plums, orange marmalade, coupled with lots of manuka honey. It’s sweet and more concentrated, with a thicker texture as well. Also toasted almonds and cinnamon in the mix. It starts off rather spicy and punchy but mellows out mid-palate, into more richness and depth.

Finish: More herbal here, eucalyptus and ginger candy, sticky date pudding, cooked plums, that brightens up to more pastry notes of brown sugar, cinnamon, and toasted marshmallows. There’s more white florals and vanilla here too - reminiscent of cinnamon rolls topped with vanilla sauce.


My Thoughts

The wow factor here was how aromatic it was - really great dense and fruity flavours that turned more herbal but at the same time was alittle confectionary too, approachable with enough to keep you excited about.

On the palate it was noticeably more spicy with some sharpness initially that came across quite nippy, but it did mellow out to a more herbal and floral finish. At time it bordered on being Bourbon-like but with more freshness and fruitiness, which was also quite compelling.

While it could use more mellow-ness and roundedness on the palate, the nose was really quite something else, and the finish was also particularly standout with those wonderful baked pastries.

This is the first time we’re getting to taste something from the Hioki Distillery and for a start this is really off to high marks, and definitely worth keeping a look out for as we see how it complements what has become quite defined as the Kanosuke signature profile.  

My Rating: 7.5/10


Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.


Image courtesy of Sasesaketen.