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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tsunuki New Pot Heavily Peated new make

The Mission: Mars whiskies:

So this is where the most recent reviews were trending: new make. And, as a wee surprise, this stuff is NOT from Shinshu distillery, but rather from Tsunuki distillery, Hombo Spirits's new Mars facility.

photo from Kagoshima's official tourism website

While Shinshu distillery perches up in the Japanese Alps in Nagano, Tsunuki was built in Satsuma (in Kagoshima prefecture) at the southern tip of Kyūshū. While it's not technically on the coast (about 10 miles away), it does sit in a basin near sea level. And it's at the same latitude (32ºN) as Algeria, Morocco, Texas, Sonora and Punjab. So yeah, it can be warm down there.

Tsunuki was built on the former site of Hombo's Kagoshima distillery, which closed in 1984. Production started at the new distillery in late 2016 with the intent of having a single malt ready in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Just like Shinshu, Tsunuki distills four new makes, from malted barley with peating levels of 0ppm, 3.5ppm, 20ppm and 50ppm.

In 2017, Mars released a four Tsunuki spirits: non-peated new make, heavily-peated new make, 47 days aged and 244 days aged. I'm ending this series with a review of the heavily-peated unaged spirit.

Brand: Mars
Distillery: Tsunuki
Ownership: Hombo Shuzo Co. Ltd.
Region: Japan, Kagoshima Prefecture
Age: 0
Maturation: none
Distilled: May 2017
Peat level: 50ppm
Bottle size: 250mL
Bottles: 4000
Alcohol by Volume: 60%
(from a purchased sample)

Color? None. One rip at the nose and WOO! Peat eau de vie. Burnt earth smoke. Wet sheep. Gunpowder and the old charred bits stuck to the grill tray. New sneakers. Ocean-soaked stones. The palate is indeed peaty, but less punishing than the nose. It has the nose's sulphuric note, though it's more like struck matches. Salty and savory. A hint of sweetness. More fabric and rubber than earth. It finishes peaty and salty. Peppercorns and cigarettes.

Gonna water it way down,

DILUTED TO ~40%abv
The nose loses none of its violence. Mostly the same notes as before. More focus on rubber, metal and saline. Intensely salty peat on the palate. A sharp bitterness. Clove cigarettes and struck matches. Maybe some sweetness. The finish is salty, bitter and smoky.

Well, it ain't whisky. Keep that in mind when you see the score. New make that rates over 60 is a success, since it's already preferable to cheap blends. New make that hits 80 is super duper because it's more complete/complex/delicious than most matured whiskies. Anyhoo...

I really enjoy new make, though I prefer the unpeated sort. This particular spirit shows why peated new make can be a bit difficult, even ugly at times. It's close to new Ledaig, but it's also close to Lost Spirits's whisky-ish things. Though its sulphuric edge is fascinating, it doesn't fatten things up like some sulphuric Scotch new make, rather it sorta makes things more......chancy? I can see this Tsunuki spirit turning into some socko crazy single malt some day. It certainly won't be a diplomatic beverage in 2020.

Availability - Japan, maybe
Pricing - the 250mL bottle was around $20
Rating - 63 (again, it's new make)