Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.
Read part 1 here.
About a year and a half ago, I heard something about a special bottling for the Kumamoto Bar Association. I tried to find out more but couldn't find a single piece of information to substantiate the rumour. At the time, I thought it a bit strange, though, that a group of lawyers in Kyushu would go through the considerable effort it takes to source a private bottling from one of the smaller distilleries here in Japan. Fast forward to December 2012, when I happened to be in Kumamoto, winding down the year with my family, and I decided to find out once and for all whether that elusive bottling actually existed. I quickly discovered, while I was there, that my source had made a small but significant mistake: it wasn't a bottling for the Kumamoto Bar Association but for the Kumamoto Bar Society, a group of bartenders not lawyers!
Bar:Colon and its owner-bartender Takeshi Tsuruta, one of the key people in the KuBS (as we'll call them for the sake of brevity). I spent the evening of December 30th there and instantly fell in love with the Kumamoto bar scene. There's nothing like it anywhere else in Japan, and if you feel that's a bold statement to make, well, bear with me and then show me a group of people who - even though they are rivals and do business along the same street for the most part - are not only as knowledgeable and passionate as these guys, but who also work together and help each other out - in ways that would put even the closest family to shame - like they do. They go on distillery trips together (Islay in 2005, Kavalan in 2012, ...) and then publish books about these trips! They put out at least one private bottling a year; we'll discuss these in depth in the next few instalments of our Kyushu series. They've even produced a feature-length documentary about "the making of" their second private bottling (more about this later, too). They also publish a bar map of Kumamoto every year, and it's wonderful to see that the KuBS love is spreading: the first map was subtitled "20 Doors"... the current map includes "38 Doors". The KuBS is an open society without any membership fees, and everything is done in that wonderful spirit of cooperation which I got a glimpse of when I was there.