Google Five Mars at the bar

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

January 13, 2020


Five Mars at the bar

I’ve almost titled this ‘Mission to Mars’; yes, no sense of the ridiculous, at all. Anyway, the other day, I was watching Colin Hampden-White’s funny and pleasantly laidback show The Three Drinkers on Amazon (I promise that’s the only thing I’ll ever watch on Amazon) and noticed that they were experimenting with deep-fried Mars bars, a.k.a. the young Scot’s haggis. And so I had a brainwave: doing a Mars session here on Whiskyfun! But do not worry, I’m not totally insane yet, that will be Mars Distillery in Japan. This time we’ll do that in ascending order as far as strengths are concerned.

Mars Maltage Cosmo ‘Manzanilla Sherry Cask Finish’ (42%, OB, Japan, blended malt, 2019)

Mars Maltage Cosmo ‘Manzanilla Sherry Cask Finish’ (42%, OB, Japan, blended malt, 2019) Three stars and a half
According to some  proper experts, this is the standard Cosmo, so most probably a blend of Mars malt and Scotch malts, that’s been finished in manzanilla (so fino from Sanlucar). So it is not Japanese whisky by our standards – although it is by the Japanese’s. Jerez – Scotland – Japan – Europe, I wouldn’t want to see the carbon footprint here. Colour: gold. Nose: feels like some young Speysider that’s been kind of upgraded using a touch of mustard, seawater, walnuts and curry. And mind you, that rather works, but the palate will tell us more. Mouth: the fino’s pretty big and the fact is, I love fino and its manzanilla variant. Big saltiness, green walnuts, mustard indeed, unleavened bread, curry indeed… Everything’s very dry here, very fino. Please pass the Iberico ham and the big fat olives. Finish: rather long, bone-dry, rather intense, with a clean salty aftertaste. Comments: I don’t think I’ve had whiskies that have been this fino-y before. Remember, manzanilla is a fino, produced anywhere in the sherry triangle, just matured in Sanlucar by the ocean (and by the Guadalquivir). My kind, I have to say, whatever the un-Japanness here.
SGP:272 - 84 points.

Mars ‘Burn The Barrel’ (43%, OB, Japan, Edition II, Y’s cask, blended malt, 2019)

Mars ‘Burn The Barrel’ (43%, OB, Japan, Edition II, Y’s cask, blended malt, 2019) Two stars and a half
There was an earlier edition at 61% vol., but I never tried it. This is a Japan-only edition and most certainly a blend of Mars and Scottish malts again. I suppose ‘burn the barrel’ refers to some heavy charring, let’s try this baby…  Colour: gold. Nose: looks like this is even drier than the Manzanilla, with rather notes of charcoal this time, straight wood smoke, burnt herbs on a bbq (rosemary seems to be obvious), perhaps a little mustard again… Wait, did they char that manzanilla cask after disgorging? Mouth: a little pungent and gritty, after a slightly gentler arrival, drying, getting almost bitter. Very ashy and pretty smoky, but not exactly peaty. What did they burn? Finish: rather long, very dry, very ashy. That feeling of having swallowed the ashes of your double-corona. Cinnamon mints. Comments: it’s very fine whisky, and I really like it indeed, but it goes from a gentle sweetness to a bitterish dryness in just a flash.
SGP: 263 - 79 points.

Mars Komagate ‘Limited Edition 2019’ (48%, OB, Japan)

Mars Komagatake ‘Limited Edition 2019’ (48%, OB, Japan) Three stars and a half
This is well the single malt from Mars Shinshu, hurray! Seriously, it’s a little mad that the Japanese would be allowed to bottle both single malts and blends under more or less the same names. On the one hand, you cannot not think of the Cardhu single/blended case from around 15 years ago, and on the other hand, I just noticed that there’s now a Chivas Regal single malt (from Strathisla’s). What is the world coming to? Colour: light gold. Nose: class. Some excellent young malt, rather fresh and citrusy/green (lemons, apples) matured in some rather perfect fresh American oak (perhaps not virgin) that’s not imparted those dreadful notes of coconut that we just loathe elsewhere. Notes of meringue and hazelnut cream. Impeccable. Mouth: the oak feels a wee bit this time (cinnamon and oak shavings upfront) but the rest just works. Vanilla, citrons, melons, meringue again… Finish: long, a little plankish. Comments: feels a bit like some start-up malts that we could try elsewhere, with a fresh oak that’s a bit too loud for me, but other than that, well, I like it quite a lot.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Mars Komagate ‘Yakushima Ageing 2019’ (58%, OB, Japan)

Mars Komagatake ‘Yakushima Ageing 2019’ (58%, OB, Japan) Four stars and a half
This was distilled at Mars Shinshu, then matured on the Yakushima island. Remember Mars, so Hombo Shuzo, mature their whiskies in three locations, Shinshu (where they also distil), Tsunuki and Yakushima. I agree it’s all a little complicated, and frankly byzantine at times. Colour: full gold. Nose: fully on some lemon tarte, vanilla cake, warm praline, moss and autumn leaves at first, before quite some camphor would start to show up, as well as some eucalyptus and thuja wood. Love it, it’s Japanese whisky that does nose Japanese indeed, I’m even wondering if some mizunara oak has not been in use at some point. With water: miso soup! Perfect! No, really! Mouth (neat): first class ‘resinous’ malt whisky, very oily, almost viscous, with some pine resin and liquorice, limoncello, and notes of orgeat (almond syrup). All that is perfectly synchronised. With water: limoncello up and so are dried herbs, including various types of mint. Finish: long, a tad saltier, no drying, with the expected citrusy aftertaste. Comments: NAS, sadly, I’d have loved to know how young this wonderful young whisky is. Just know. As for ageing terroir in wisky, well, I won’t open than can of worms again.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Perhaps a little indie before we call this a session?

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (61%, Blackadder, Japan, refill bourbon barrel, cask #1647, 239 bottles)

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (61%, Blackadder, Japan, refill bourbon barrel, cask #1647, 239 bottles) Three stars
Yeah, 3 years old refill! Please note that this is an official bottle with a Blackadder label. But how do Blackadder cunningly manage to source these odd (in the best sense of that word) whiskies? Colour: white wine. Nose: really, it’s cool to be able to ‘get’ the distillate with no oak in the way, and yet with all roughness gone. Mind you, this is not new make at all. First, there’s a rather crisp, lemony peatiness, then notes of gooseberries and rhubarb, then some wool and the kind of clean coastal farminess that could be met in, say… ach, Brora. But this is not Brora, let’s not dream too much. With water: raw peat smoke, so like in a working kiln. Where’s the nearest laundry? Mouth (neat): sweet, crisp, very fruity and very peaty. Let’s be honest, it is a little new-make-y, but lemons would come to the rescue. I think water is required, though. With water: very nice, but its lacking that je-ne-sais-quoi (how’s my English?) that make the Islays and a few others so wonderfully coastal. More a peated Speysider, in other words. Finish: long and ashy. That common feeling of having quaffed half a litre of lapsang souchong. Yeah, or licked an Ibizan ashtray around 9am. Comments: pretty good yet a little simple. Reminds me of Birnie Moss.
SGP:457 - 82 points.

(Thansk a lot, Chris at Sushi+Soul in Munich!)

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