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Hombo Shuzo Mars Shinshu Komagatake "Limited Edition 2020" Single Malt Japanese Whisky (750ml) SKU #1509581

Price: $199.99

WA 94
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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 2000s 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 2020 LE is bottled at 50% ABV and aged in primarily ex-bourbon barrels combined with some sherry influence. 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
    3/2/2021
    K&L Staff Member
    The absolutely splendid Komagatake line is finally coming online in a serious way. For the first time this last year, we've been given access to significant quantities of their limited edition offerings. While Yamazaki and Nikka get all the hype, Mars Distillery is quietly making some of the best whisky in Japan and only the real geeks are really tuned into how special these offerings are. Not only is this "real" Japanese, in that it was completely distilled at the Mars facility in Nagano, but it's also absolutely delicious and polished in a way that many other up and coming Japanese brands are not. The excellent malts from the Nagano facility are distilled on two antique copper pots that were built by hand in the 1950s. The resulting spirits tends to offer tons of depth and complexity and their access to high quality wood, with this release a mix of ex-sherry and American Oak both new and used, creates the perfect opportunity to highlight the wonderful quality coming off those stills. Let's taste it! The color is pale gold. The nose exhibits obvious dried fruit aromas, stone fruits and other orchard fruits, plus some twang of new fresh American oak - cinnamon, vanilla, creamy caramel etc. On the palate it continues in this inviting direction with dried plums, complex floral honey, roasted cacao, earthy malt and hints of menthol. The new wood is nicely balanced by the sweet flavors of the sherry here and the rich texture keeps it interesting. Extremely drinkable at 100 proof. This is just really fun to drink and while it's likely collectable with only 15,000 bottles world wide, I hope our customers take the chance to taste this special bottle while they can.
  • Andrew Whiteley
    By: Andrew Whiteley
    2/27/2021
    K&L Staff Member
    So much modern Japanese whisky available in the United States is full of controversy. The majority of new brands are taking Japanese made rice spirit and labelling it as whiskey for the American market (rice is a grain after all and therefore qualifies for the term in the USA, but such a spirit cannot be called whisky in Japan itself) or they are importing Scotch to Japan and shortly thereafter exporting it as Japanese Whisky. Most American consumers don't realize that the premium bottle the purchased is in no way Japanese except for maybe the writing on the label. Not so with the Mars distillery. Right on the front of the label it is clearly written "Distilled and Matured in Miyada, Nagano, Japan." No questions there. No vague 'Japanese whisky' claim to parse. With its origin firmly established, let's turn to the whisky itself. The 2020 Limited Edition is bottled at 50% ABV and a blend of sherry casks and American white oak casks. It's a rich nose of over ripe peaches, vanilla bean custard, and Manuka honey with a faint nod towards the earthy/fruity complexity of fine agave spirits. The palate is lithe and zippy - like a featherweight prizefighter. Orange blossom and cracked peppercorn box with roasted cocoa nibs and jackfruit. The finish is of a medium to long length. It's intense at first, but moves to a drawn out, almost ghostly impression of the whisky that lingers for a very long time. A very impressive whisky that is poised and complete without ever being heavy handed.

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