A SCOT who became known as the mother of Japanese whisky is the focus of a fascinating new exhibition.

Rita Cowan crossed the globe to help create one of Japan’s most successful and best-known whisky distilleries.

Her story has now been distilled into a new co-curated show at Kirkintilloch Town Hall.

Artist Elspeth Lamb worked with East Dunbartonshire Women’s Aid and senior pupils at Kirkintilloch High school to create artworks celebrating the life of Cowan and her husband.

Entitled Re-imagining Rita And Masataka Taketsuru, the exhibition opens to the public on Monday and promises to be a unique glimpse into a creative spirit who remains a legend in her adopted homeland.

Councillor Billy Hendry said: “Rita’s story is an important part of Kirkintilloch’s heritage, attracting visitors from across the globe and especially from Japan, where she lived with her husband Masataka Taketsuru. She led an amazing life – combining courage, culture, entrepreneurship and success.”

Born in 1896, Rita’s life changed with the death of her fiancé during the First World War and her father in 1918. The losses motivated the family to take on a lodger, a young University of Glasgow student – Masataka Taketsuru – who was on a mission to uncover the art of Scottish whisky-making.

Despite protests from both families, the couple married in January 1920 and 10 months later Rita arrived in Japan, where she helped her husband build the world-renowned Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido.

Lamb, who has worked extensively in Japan, said: “Moving to Japan must have been a monumental change for Rita, who by marrying a Japanese man and emigrating in the 1920s against the express wishes of both sets of parents, would have experienced extreme culture shock.”

Rita’s kimono and obi sash – as well as graphics, Manga comics and photos – provided inspiration for art which is interwoven with traditional Japanese print techniques. Exhibits include a folded concertina printed book created by Women’s Aid participants, “zines” from Kirkintilloch High School pupils and a series of silkscreen prints by Lamb.

EDLC Trust chair, Sandy Marshall, said: “The exhibition is a re-interpretation of the life and times of a Kirkintilloch-born pioneer. Rita travelled across the world to be with the man she loved, helping to create the whisky industry in Japan.

“Her legacy lives on, with the company – now known as Nikka – flourishing. Rita and her husband’s story was dramatised on Japanese TV and she remains a legendary figure in her adopted homeland.”

The exhibition, open Monday to Thursday, runs until August 1.