Mars (マルス) is the whisky brand of Hombo Shuzo Co Ltd (本坊酒造株式会社), under which two distilleries: Shinshu (信州蒸溜所), located at the foot of the Kiso Mountains in Nagano Prefecture (and the highest at 798m, becoming snow covered in winter) and Tsunuki (津貫蒸溜所), located close to the family home of the founder in Kagoshima Prefecture (and the southernmost in Japan main island, with hot, tropical like climate in the summer), are currently in operation. These two distilleries produce whiskies of contrasting styles due to differences in water sources, climate and aging conditions. After a couple of closures and restarts since the 1980s, Mars is today gaining reputation as a producer of quality whiskies staying true to traditional methods, and with roots dating back to the dawn of Japanese whisky making (the pot stills in Shinshu are based on a design by Mar's first master distiller, Kiichiro Iwai, who in turned followed the stills blueprint of Masataka Taketsuru, his one-time collaborator). We are excited about the future of this top Japanese whisky!
Tasting Notes (from timeforwhisky):
Limited Edition 2018-this limited release of 10,000 bottles was aged entirely in ex-Bourbon / American White Oak barrels, and is said to include both peated and unpeated spirit, matured in Shinshu.
Colour: Light yellow gold.
Nose: Vanilla and toasted oak, slightly smoky toasted banana bread, oat cakes and faint wafts of smoke.
Palate: Toffee and caramel, then some ripe plum, orange zest, pot pouri. With time, some floral pear notes emerge.
Finish: Long, citrus with a floral lingering smoke.
Limited Edition 2019-this release was distilled at Mars' Shinshu distillery and vatted from Bourbon barrels and "several other types of casks" (it literally says that on the box). The exact number of bottles released isn't known, but like its 2018 counterpart, it's a one-off limited release.
Colour: Light copper gold.
Nose: Instant fruit - pear, melons (rockmelon & honeydew melon), green apples and some oak.
Palate: Follows the fruitiness of the nose. Rockmelon, apricot, marmalade, some orange slices and hints of sweet Grand Marnier.
Finish: Apple flan, slight earthy "fruit smoke", peach pie.
Size: 70 cl
Fill level: Good
With box?: Yes