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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Shinshu Mars Komagatake Kohiganzakura

The Mission: Mars whiskies thus far:
--Shinshu Mars Komagatake Nature of Shinshu - Kohiganzakura (today)

The tour of Mars continues...

The first three whiskies (1986, 1992 and 1989) from this set of reviews were distilled during Shinshu's first whisky distillation era which began in 1985 and ended in 1992. The pot stills then sat silent until 2011, and have been running ever since.

Today's whisky is from the recent "Nature of Shinshu" series, which combines casks from this new period with casks from the old era. Sort of a Mars Uigeadail thing.

Specifics and guesses

Additional specifics of the (so far) three "Nature of Shinshu" batches are a bit confusing since different retailer sites say different things, and sometimes even jumbling the batch names (Kohiganzakura, Rindo and Shinanotanpopo). At least one of the batches has a portion of wine cask whisky and at least one has some lightly peated stuff in the mix. Some might have sherry casks, all probably have American oak casks.

Details about the cask ages from these two periods are also scrambled. But at least some data are known. This batch, Kohiganzakura, was bottled in 2016. The first era ended in 1992. So the old casks aren't younger than 23-ish years unless they were put into steel or glass before 2016, nor are they older than 31 years. The current distillation period began in February 2011, so the newer whisky element is between 3 and 5 years old.

The young stuff likely makes up the vast majority of the mix. But this makes for a nice transition as I progress toward the brand's current single malts.

lovely Sakura label
by Yoko Nomura
photo source
Brand: Mars
Distillery: Shinshu
Ownership: Hombo Shuzo Co. Ltd.
Region: Japan, Nagano Prefecture
Age: young stuff (maybe 3-5 yrs) + old stuff (maybe 23-31 yrs)
Maturation: ???
Bottles: 5275
Alcohol by Volume: 52%
(from a purchased sample)

Its color is light gold.

Its nose is the maltiest of the group thus far. There are also flower blossoms, lemon zest and pie crust. Canned peaches and pears. Also a nice ripple of seaweed underneath. With a few drops of water it gets maltier. Lemon cake, orange marmalade and cinnamon bread.

The palate has gentle aquatic peat. Malt, apples, pears, a hint of caramel candy. Ginger beer and root beer. It's mildly sweet. Spirity, but not rough. Kinda pretty. With a few drops of water it gets bitterer, rougher, reading very young. There are some quiet florals and green apples in there.

It finishes warm, lightly sweet and tangy. Salty. Flower blossoms and caramel. With a few drops of water it gets rawer, like the palate. Maybe some citrus and vanilla.

Well, that was curious. Mars may have found the money spot at 52%abv. The nose is very pleasant throughout, but the palate is MUCH better without water. Yet, even at "MUCH better" it shows no sign of the older casks. It's young whisky. That's not a crime, but this whisky does cost three figures, and it could really use some more balance or calming from the well-matured element.

Overall, I like it. Heck, I think I prefer it over yesterday's 20yo. This is something I'd buy, but at half (or a third) of its current price. (FWIW, I enjoyed another Komagatake much more when I tried it last June (thanks to Will at Buffalo Tap in Ikebukuro).)

Availability - Europe and American specialty retailers
Pricing - US: $150-$180, Europe: $130-$160
Rating - 83 (neat only)