Stoli® Group is announcing the release of its latest collaboration, the Kentucky Owl® Takumi Edition Bourbon Whiskey. Available this fall across the U.S., the Takumi Edition is the second limited edition release from Kentucky Owl® this year showcasing the brand’s innovative approach to traditional bourbon. A collaboration between Master Blenders John Rhea (Kentucky Owl®) and Yusuke Yahisa (Nagahama Distillery), this latest limited edition release blends new and old, showcasing Kentucky bourbon through the eyes of Japanese whisky. Both Kentucky and Japan are home to whiskey lovers who respect tradition and craftsmanship, but who also admire innovation. The Japanese term kaizen — continuous improvement — echoes through this latest project. “Takumi” means “master” in Japanese, with the name of the release celebrating the art and craft of modern whisky blending.
Rhea and Yahisa worked together to create the resulting Takumi Edition blend, with Rhea selecting four different formulations and sending the samples to Japan. Yahisa evaluated those samples, which represented different ages and mash bills available from Kentucky Owl®. Yahisa then created different blends with those formulations to develop one most reflective of his Japanese whisky style.
“This collaboration encompasses not just the art of blending, but the flavors and taste profiles that both countries are famous for in their whiskeys,” said Rhea. “The Takumi Edition provides bourbon lovers insight into the flavor profiles sought after by a Japanese whisky blender. As someone who has worked in the industry for several decades now, it was exciting for me to work with a rising star in whisky with a unique perspective.”
Speaking of the collaboration, Yahisa said, “I was very excited to have the opportunity to work with John Rhea on this unique project. Bourbon is a whiskey that I admire and it was an honor to be able to partner with John and create a new and unique blend of Kentucky Owl together.”
The Takumi Edition Bourbon is a blend of 4-, 5-, 6- and 13-year-old Kentucky straight bourbons with mash bills containing corn, rye or wheat, and malted barley.
The nose features a savory mix of light rye bread with sweet caramel richness and a hint of tangy fruit salad. On tasting, there is an initial wave of buttery rye bread with a full-bodied feel. The savory mix of rye and caramel combine into a cinnamon and caramel sauce that clings to the taste buds and brings out a bit of fruitiness — mostly apple and pear — that provide a flavorful and lasting finish.
“Bringing together Rhea and Yahisa, bourbon and whisky, Kentucky and Japan has proved to be another great whiskey collaboration,” commented Damian McKinney, Global CEO of Stoli® Group. “Through this second limited edition international collaboration release of Kentucky Owl Whiskey, Stoli is pleased to present another rare new blend that marries the craft and skills of two Master Blenders from two great whiskey making nations.”
Yahisa is an up-and-coming master blender — through his blending skills, Nagahama distillery is one of only 10 Japanese distilleries to have earned awards in the world’s three largest whisky competitions (San Francisco World Spirits Competition, International Spirits Competition and the World Whisky Awards), despite being Japan’s smallest distillery. Started in 2016, Nagahama Distillery is located on the shores of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, and produces single malt whisky with its own distinct flavor characteristics imparted by the unique climate.
This is the fourth Kentucky Owl® release under Rhea, who previously served as Four Roses Distillery’s chief operating officer, where his responsibilities included quality control, maturation, evaluation and product blending. He was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2016 and served as chair of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association board of directors.
Stoli® Group, the leading global ultra-premium spirits and wine company, purchased Kentucky Owl® in 2017. Originally founded by C.M. Dedman in 1879, the Kentucky Owl® Bardstown distillery went dark during the Prohibition era and remained dormant until a descendant revived the brand in 2014. Since then, the company’s small batch releases have sold out quickly and received rave reviews.
The Kentucky Owl® Takumi Edition Bourbon Whiskey (100 proof/50% ABV, $150 MSRP/750mL), is the latest addition to the Kentucky Owl® portfolio, following the release of the St. Patrick’s Limited Edition Bourbon Whiskey in March 2022. The Kentucky Owl® Takumi Edition will be available beginning in October through fine retailers across the brand’s national distribution footprint.