Mars Shinshu "Iwai-45" Whiskey Advocate #19 2020


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Sandwiched between Japan’s soaring Southern Alps and the towering Central Alps and at just over 2,600 feet, Mars Shinshu is Japan’s highest whisky distillery. The Hombo family has been distilling shochu for more than a century and added whisky to their repertoire in 1949. Back then, the distillery was located in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southernmost island of Kyushu. In 1984, the Hombo clan moved the distillery to the idyllic alpine setting of Miyada village in southern Nagano Prefecture. They chose this site for its cool temperatures, which slow maturation, and the plentiful and soft granite-filtered, snowmelt-fed aquifers.

A nose of vanilla and butterscotch with hints of strawberry and stewed apple. Pleasant flavors of milk chocolate, quince and toffee lead to a long, lingering sweet finish.


The Hombo family has been creating Wines and Spirits in Japan for more than 100 years. They added Whisky to their products in 1949. In 1984 they wanted to move the distilling operation to a cooler climate, so they closed their distillery in Kagoshima and built a new one high in the mountains of Nagano at an altitude of more than 2600 feet — the Mars Shinshu Distillery. But a few mishaps caused them to cease production in 1992. It opened again in 2011, and new stills were acquired in 2014. But their warehouse still contain hundreds of casks stretching back thirty years. Now at full production strength, this small distillery produces a range of sweet and peated Whiskies.

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