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New company to open Japan’s ‘first’ gin distillery

The newly founded Number One Drinks Company is set to open what it claims is Japan’s first distillery dedicated to producing artisan gin, The Kyoto Distillery.

Alex Davies, former distiller at Chase and Cotswold distilleries, will take on the position of head distiller at The Kyoto Distillery

The Kyoto Distillery is scheduled to open early next year as part of the Number One Drinks Company, a new company founded by David Croll and Marcin Miller.

Croll has lived in Japan for more than 20 years and for the last 10 of those has worked with Miller exporting Japanese whiskies all over the world.

“Our plan is simply to make the finest gin possible with a focus on Japanese botanicals”, said Croll of the company’s plans. “We realise that there are plenty of new entrants in the gin category but are confident that, by offering an exceptional spirit with a genuine point of difference, we will attract discerning consumers. Our initial emphasis will be on engaging with the Japanese bartending community and, thereafter, exporting to a small number of markets on allocation only.”

Having secured a premise in Kyoto, the pair have ordered stills from CARL and recruited Alex Davies, former distiller at Chase and Cotswold distilleries, to head up its production.

“It had to be an amazing offer to lure me away from my last position but I figured this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”, said Davies. “Kyoto is famed for its cuisine, has an abundance of fruit unique to the area and is the cradle of Japanese craft, from sake-brewing to kimono-weaving, woodblock printing, ceramics and lacquer work. I have stacks of ideas already and can’t wait to start distilling in the most inspiring and forward-thinking city I’ve ever visited.”

Davies will be supported by an as yet unnamed assistant distiller with more than 20 years experience in the industry, and a Japanese former Master Distiller, who will act as a consultant.

While Japanese whisky has taken off in recent years, finding a niche among whisky enthusiasts and collectors, gin is yet to take-off in the country as it has in other countries. In the UK the number of UK gin brands has doubled since 2010 from 31 to 73. Last year The Cambridge Distillery created what it claimed was the “world’s first” umami Japanese Gin, made using Japanese botanicals. However it was distilled in Cambridge, UK.

“The gin category remains dynamic but we are entering a period of natural selection where quality and a genuine backstory of craft and location is becoming increasingly important”, said Miller. “David and I have extensive experience with Japanese drinks and our head distiller is hugely enthusiastic about the opportunities offered by the fruit and spices of Kyoto.”

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