Independent bottler in the spotlight: Kingsbury


Last month, we kicked off a new series of blog posts that placed the focus on the bottlers that produce the incredible whisky we love to drink with a look at Signatory Vintage.

This month, Kingsbury step into the limelight.

In case you missed it, here’s why we started this series:

At Whisky Foundation, we often talk of our favourite bottlings and our favourite cask-finishes. We often talk of whisky regions and whisky terms and the whisky industry in general.

But, for an independent bottling site, we feel like we’ve neglected talking about independent bottlers a little.

This series is going to change that.

Now, each month, we’re going to pick out an independent bottler to celebrate.

We’re going to give you a bit of history, a bit of insight and a little taste of what makes them so good. (Oh, we’ll also be recommending some of their whiskies too, just to keep it interesting.)

The History of Kingsbury

Kingsbury – or Kingsbury Wine & Spirits Co. as it’s officially known – was founded in Aberdeen in 1989 by Katsuhiko Tanaka, the president of Japan Import System Co. Ltd.

(See, this is already a little different from your usual independent bottler origin story, right?)

Japan Import System Co. is a very well-established, family-run liquor store in Tsukiji. They first opened their doors in 1956 (it was Katsuhiko’s grandmother who owned and ran it at the time) and evolved over the years to be a purveyor and seller of the finest spirits.

They weren’t just focused on mark-up and margins, they wanted to source spirits that were an authentic representation of their terroir. In other words, they didn’t want cheap Scotch, they wanted the very best expressions of Scottish heritage and tradition in single malt form.

As such, they started Kingsbury to source, bottle and provide them with a steady supply of the very best whisky.

What makes Kingsbury so special?

For a start, most of Kingsbury whiskies are only available for the Japanese market. (Well, and here at Whisky Foundation, of course. Quite a lot of Kingsbury bottlings are exclusive to Whisky Foundation. Not that we’re bragging or anything…)

Secondly, all whiskies are hand selected by Katsuhiko Tanaka and Gordon Wright (from Springbank). That’s a pretty decent indication that they’re great whiskies.

Thirdly, from day dot, Kingsbury has been dedicated to bottling their whiskies non-chill-filtered and – in most cases – cask strength.

In short, they do things right.

(And, if you’re based in the US or UK, they’re something a little different.)

Our favourite Kingsbury bottlings:

Bowmore 18 Year (Kingsbury, 1997)

Bowmore 18 Year

Like most Kingsbury bottlings, this bad boy is Whisky Foundation exclusive.

And this is something very special indeed.

Distilled in 1997 at Bowmore Distillery on Islay and then matured in a rum cask, it was bottled after 18 years of soaking up those sweet, Caribbean notes from a rum cask. Kingsbury finally bottled it at a cask strength of 58.6% ABV in 2016 (with no chill-filtering or added colouring, of course).

Plus, there were only 188 bottles produced, so this really is a rare treat. Get it while you can.

Caol Ila 20 Year (Kingsbury, 1996)

Caol Ila 20 Year

You might remember this one – it was our IB of the Month a few months ago.

But it’s so good that we had to include it again.

(Plus, we’re incredibly proud to have it as a WF exclusive.)

It’s well-rounded, balanced and has a long salt finish typical of Caol Ila malts. Plus, it has been aged in a rum cask for two decades and then bottled at a cask strength of 56.90%.

That means that all the subtle flavours (particularly the spice, fruit and vanilla notes) from the rum cask have been left intact.

We love this whisky. Why not treat yourself to a bottle before we drink the stock room dry?

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