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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

October 17, 2019



Genuine Japan, today Mars

One of the pioneers of Japanese whisky, and the country’s highest distillery. Japan’s Dalwhinnie, if you will. Hombo Shuzo have issued their authentic Japanese whiskies under various names, Mars, Shinshu, Komagate, Iwai, Mars Maltage… It’s actually pretty difficult to keep track, but what’s sure is that all the ‘Mars’ we’ve tried until now have all been good to very good. But first, a little aperitif…

Mars ‘Kasei’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2018)

Mars ‘Kasei’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2018) Three stars
Well, we’re not totally sure this is fully Japanese, to tell you the truth. They just call this ‘blended whisky’, so… Doubt it, actually… Let’s see… BTW, Kasei seems to mean Mars in Japanese, so we have a tautological whisky in our glass… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: as soft as a sunrise, and fresh as a daisy. Lovely floral touches, violets, maybe lavender, a little tequila (remember last time’s Akashi?) and the freshest brioche dough on earth. Very soft, very delicate, not grainy at all. Mouth: indeed, soft, with pears, hay, jasmine, a wee bit of pink banana, and indeed a drop of tequila. Hope tequila won’t become an obsession. Anyway, the 40% work well with such very fresh profiles. Finish: short, clean, on pears and violets. Comments: a very lovely little whisky, whether it’s fully Japanese or not. Easy, floral, fruity, fresh.
SGP:531 - 81 points.

Mars Komagate ‘Limited Edition 2018’ (48%, OB, 2018)

Mars Komagate ‘Limited Edition 2018’ (48%, OB, 2018) Four stars
This one only contains young malts from Mars, but some friends may remember that we scored a 2014/2019 91 points in May this year. Colour: straw. Nose: ups and downs for a while (fresh barley to sulphur and back), but it would start to keep quieter after just one minute, with beautiful fresh plums and pears, followed with parsley and chives. A little bubblegum too, that’s the young age, but also lovage and Maggi. So much fun in there! Mouth: terrific young whisky! Extremely different from the Akashis that were all fully oak-driven, while this is rather more about the distillate, breads, doughs, ales, even white wines, Meursault, woodruff syrup (ever tried that?), prickly pears, pink grapefruits… I’m not saying the casks were not of some importance here, but I’m sure the distillates playing a large part. Wonderful stuff. Finish: medium, on pear liqueur and good new-make. They did not ‘push’ the oak, that’s to be lauded! Comments: really a fan, despite the obvious youth.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Mars Komagate 2013 ‘Nature of Shinshu Kohinganzakura’ (52%, OB, +/-2018)

Mars Komagate 2013 ‘Nature of Shinshu Kohinganzakura’ (52%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars
It’s all about cherry blossom, you see. Frankly, who’s gonna remember that name? Kohinganzakura? It’s said that this one’s lightly peated, and that it was partly matured in some ex-Japanese wine casks. Was that sake? Colour: gold. Nose: no smoke that I get, rather a wonderful bready and vanilla-ed development that would come together with touches of copper, herbs (oregano?), and just all the breads of the world. Roasted pumpkin seeds, mashed carrots… With water: a little paraffin, brake fluid, leatherette… Mouth (neat): ah, there, some peat, reminding me of the very early batches of Bruichladdich that they made when they reopened the distillery around 2001. Same melon quality, peat, wee drops of brine, citrons, spearmint… What a lovely fresh spirit! With water: indeed, this is pretty perfect, with a resinous side, some beeswax, otherwise oranges and lemons, some citric smoke (should that exist)… Finish: rather long, tense, vertical, lemony. Comments: loved it how it became tarter and more lemony. Same very high quality as that of the ‘2018’.
SGP:652 - 87 points.

Mars Komagate ‘Nature of Shinshu Rindo’ (52%, OB, +/-2018)

Mars Komagate ‘Nature of Shinshu Rindo’ (52%, OB, +/-2018) Five stars
Some say this baby contains some older Mars, distilled before the distillery last closed down. What is really cool is that ‘Rindo’ means ‘gentian’, while we simply worship and adore the great yellow gentian at WF Towers. But will gentians come through? Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: no gentian so far, rather bergamots and ‘unpacking a new stereo’. So plastics, electronics, and stuff. Wild carrots, perhaps, fennel… With water: a delicate, almost evanescent smokiness, as poets would say. Mouth (neat): how very excellent! Citron liqueur, old Sylvaner, wormwood, verbena… Halt, please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! This is roaring stuff. With water: impeccably perfect, fresh, very lightly peated ala HP, with touches of fermentation that we always like a lot. Granted, as long as it does not get feinty. Finish: medium, clean, just perfectly balanced. Comments: some say Mas can talk to Chichibu. No doubt about that. Sadly, no gentian to be found here, but we did not find any cherry blossom in the Kohinsomething either.
SGP:552 - 90 points.

Let’s go on…

Mars Komagate 2014/2019 ‘Double Cellars 2019’ (47%, OB, 2019)

Mars Komagate 2014/2019 ‘Double Cellars 2019’ (47%, OB, 2019) Five stars
The Japanese seem to be a little obsessed with the places where they mature their stuff, which could already be seen with several older Yamazakis and Hakushus, for example. In this very case, that would be two different warehouses, Shinshu and Yakushima. I’m sure we’ll easily notice the impact of the Yakushima cellars here (nah I’m joking). Colour: gold. Nose: very typically Mars, with this citrony vanilla and the impeccable barleyness. Wonderful white oak, white chocolate as well as sultanas, assorted fresh scones, and just the right amount of dough and fresh baguette. Mouth: extremely simple, and yet utterly perfect. Some kind of Bauhaus whisky, with just vanilla, café latte, and marmalade. The utter beauty of simplicity. Finish: same, with just the softest spices in the aftertaste, and an insane fruitiness. Comments: such a crying shame that these guys who make perfect Japanese whisky could suffer from the ill-doing of a few cupid brand-builders and soulless booze and beer conglomerates!
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Mars Komagate 3 yo 2013/2016 ‘Tsunuki Ageing’ (59%, OB, 2274 bottles)

Mars Komagate 3 yo 2013/2016 ‘Tsunuki Ageing’ (59%, OB, 2274 bottles) Four stars
Okay, this is a Commemorative Edition, distilled at Shinshu and matured at Tsunuki (nothing to do with Tsukune, these marvellous chicken brochettes). You always need a story, don’t you. Colour: gold. Nose: rather closed this time, rather on banana skin and apples, plus mundane lager, Heineken-style. Nothing to write home about, so far. With water: not much, perhaps is it too young? Some very wee medicinal notes, around bandages. Mouth (neat): yeah of course it’s good. Lemon, tangerines, marmalade, mango chutney, vanilla, acacia honey, and maple syrup. I’m asking you, who would be against that? With water: impeccable, as the medicinal notes are coming back, with some camphor and some cough syrup. Those kinds of notes always mingle very well with anything citrusy, just ask any Laphroaiggistas. Finish: medium, a tad sour, on a mint-and-camphor-plus-citrus combo. Comments: not much to add, this is as good as we had expected, Tsunuki or not Tsunuki. The nose was a little less entrancing, having said that, but it’s true that this baby’s extremely young. 
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Mars Komagate 2013/2016 ‘ePower’ (56.9%, OB, 594 bottles)

Mars Komagate 2013/2016 (56.9%, ePower, 594 bottles) Four stars
ePower? Sounds like the name of a Nissan car, does it not? Oh and pst, could we have a look at the distillery’s carbon assessment? No, please do not, we are joking! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not often that you would find this much white chocolate in a whisky. Whether power or not, it’s very soft whisky so far. A little sawdust, a little vanilla, a touch of white wine… ePower, really? With water: custardy, shall we say. We’ve seen more entrancing noses, but it’s flawless. Just not very wop-bob (a loo bop a lop ba ba.)  Mouth (neat): yeah well, it’s the usual Mars combo, the one that no one will resist. Lemons, marmalade, mango jam, barley, acacia honey, limoncello, a drop of pineapple juice this time… It’s just very good, very very good. And very consensual. With water: naturally, naturally. Finish: rather long, sweet, easy, well crafted. Comments: very excellent again, maybe just a wee tad… boring? On the other hand, who’s going to taste eight Mars in a row, like we just do now?
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Time to put an end to this madness, with a very last Martian…

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (58%, Number One Drinks Company, bourbon barrel, cask #1664)

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (58%, Number One Drinks Company, bourbon barrel, cask #1664) Five stars
Always so smart, No.1, always so smart! Colour: white wine. Nose: hate those people, whether they bear moustaches or not at time of writing. How come did they find this extraordinary cask that’s so marvellously Old-Ardbeggian? What’s this? What’s the trick? Olive oil and embrocations, linseed oil, riesling, coal tar, whelks, kelp, tarmac, throat pastille, soot… What? With water: I’d swear we’ve managed to reproduce the best old vintages of Ardbeg CC by G&M, the ones at 40% vol.. Vicks VapoRub and stuff. Mouth (neat): no, really, what? Fermented (not macerated) gentian, wild mezcal, and Ardbeg, all in the same bottle? Is that legal? Do you have the papers? With water: yeah, like, this is funny, for sure. Finish: ? Comments: ?
SGP:466 - 92 points.

(Chris, you deserve the Whiskyfun Amber Cross!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese whiskies we've tasted so far






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