Sandwiched between Japan’s soaring Southern Alps and the towering Central Alps and at just over 2,600 feet, Mars Shinshu is Japan’s highest whisky distillery. The Hombo family has been distilling shochu for more than a century and added whisky to their repertoire in 1949. Back then, the distillery was located in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southernmost island of Kyushu. In 1984, the Hombo clan moved the distillery to the idyllic alpine setting of Miyada village in southern Nagano Prefecture. They chose this site for its cool temperatures, which slow maturation, and the plentiful and soft granite-filtered, snowmelt-fed aquifers.
Mars Shinshu Iwai 45 Blended Japanese Whisky is kicked up to 45% ABV in this expression for even further versatility in cocktails. This new, higher proof Iwai (pronounced EE-why) was designed for cocktails; however, it’s supple and more than capable as a neat sipper too, with pleasing aromas of honey, ripening pear, barley, exotic woods, and citrus. The palate of honey sweetness, sugar cubes, vanilla, pear, apricot, and spice bows out with honey, breakfast cereal, nougat, and white chocolate. It’s a delicious and unusual whisky from Japan, less aligned with the country’s scotch-like tradition of malts and blends and more similar to bourbon, being made mostly from corn.
NOSE: Honey, ripening pear, barley, exotic woods, and citrus.
PALATE: Honey sweetness, sugar cubes, vanilla, pear, apricot, and spice bows out with honey, breakfast cereal, nougat, and white chocolate.
FINISH: Long, cereal, caramel, vanilla.