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Hombo Shuzo Mars Shinshu Komagatake "Limited Edition 2019" Single Malt Japanese Whisky (750ml) SKU #1394434

Price: $149.99

WA 91
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Professional Reviews

K&L Notes

The history of the excellent Mars Distillery is long and complicated. The special stills that now sit at the high altitude distillery near Nagano were hand built to the specifications of the preeminent grandfather of Japanese Whisky, Masataka Taketsuru. In the 1950s, Taketsuru-san's mentor Iwai Kiichiro, who had commissioned his famed voyage to Scotland, designed and built two pot stills for Hombo Shuzo in Yamanashi using Takesturu's original specifications. The stills were moved to Kagoshima not long after production started and eventually moved again to Nagano in the early 80s. For another decade, Mars Whisky operated their old pot stills from their mountain home, but lackluster demand for whisky caused Hombo to cease operations completely at the plant in 1992. But renewed interest in the late '00s for Japanese whisky compelled the owners to relaunch the brand and recommission the old pots at Mars Shinshi in Nagano. Now Mars Whisky consists of two distilleries, this one and another at the Mars headquarters on Kumamoto called Tsunuki. Production is tiny compared to their next largest competitors, Suntory and Nikka, but Mars' single malts have become renowned for their extremely high quality. The Limited Editions are bottled at 48% and aged in primarily ex-bourbon barrels with various other cask types blended in without detail. An excellent example of what the future of craft Japanese whisky looks like and one of the more collectable and unique offerings on the market today.

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Staff Reviews

  • David Othenin-Girard
    By: David Othenin-Girard
    8/18/2020
    K&L Staff Member
    The excellent Mars Distillery in Nagano has played third fiddle to the big boys during the Japanese Whisky explosion, but their special releases are still snatch up by collectors as quickly as we can get them. Last year, we were allocated we received a minuscule 36 bottle allocation. It was sold out in a day. This year we were able to muscle the supplier for more than 20 cases thanks to the fact that bars all over the country are closed. So, for the first time in ages, we're able to market a collectible Limited Edition Japanese Single Malt that isn't made from Canadian or Irish Whiskey bulked into Japan, marked up and bottled as Japanese. This is real Japanese malt here and Mars is making some seriously delicious stuff. The stills were hand built in the 50s and moved around the country during various periods, but production began in earnest again at the Nagano plant in 2009, so this is not very old whisky by any means. The malt is dried with the tiniest amount of peat smoke, around 3-5 parts per million. Their Limited Edition apparently comes from the warmest parts of the warehouse. The top floors is what one source mentions. Hombo Shuzo seems to have some Kentucky style racking warehouses, which are not unheard of in Scotland either. This vast majority of this batch was aged in first fill ex-bourbon, with tiny amounts of virgin oak and sherry butts thrown in for good measure. Let's have a taste. Almost an hour of aeration the glass before tasting. The color is old gold. A gorgeous nose of fresh orchard fruit: yuzu, poire d'anjou, mirabelle, Crispins and more. A pristine, almost chiseled character on the nose, focused, refined, but not monotonous. Fleeting slivers of spice and vanilla, but the pure fruity malt is front and center. It might be young malt, but it's very very good malt. On the palate, we're starting to see more American oak take charge, still with some fruit there though. A bit of roasted vanilla bean, cinnamon spice, twinges of espresso and burnt sugar. The fruit is maybe a bit more tropical now. The tiniest drop of water washes away the slightly overt wood on the palate bringing some lively citrus and unusual herbal character. Is it tarragon? A decidedly refreshing take on the white-hot Japanese malt category. It isn't simply an approximation of Scottish single malt, but a window into what will certainly become the house style in years to come, and an idiosyncratic style that I believe allows it to stand alone among it's peers. While the collectors may snatch this up, it's the drinkers who will undoubtedly get the most out of it.
  • Will Blakely
    By: Will Blakely
    8/5/2020
    K&L Staff Member
    I will never forget the first time I tasted a Komagatake. Like most people, up until that point my exposure to Japanese whisky centered around Suntory and Nikka, and I had only recently seen Mars' Iwai label hit shelves. That first bottle changed my perception of Japanese whisky forever, and I am so happy to reacquaint myself with this line. Looking at the label, you can immediately see this is something special, and the liquid inside truly lives up to the expectation. A striking nose of lemon oil, cut hay, peach blossom and pine sets the tone. The palate presents a refined and fully realized amalgam of gorgeous flavor- grilled peach, marzipan, creamy vanilla, nutty toffee, mountain herbs and barrel spice, all beautifully intermingling with a whisper of smoke and black tea. The craft is evident in how these components come together, perfectly integrated, to create something almost deceptively simple, yet intricate and delicate and complex. These bottles are always a special treat, and I implore you to plumb its depths, savor its full array of flavors, and experience the tranquility that can only come from this divine facility tucked into the mountains.

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