We’ve shared tasting notes on quite a few Japanese drops of liquid gold but not one from this Japanese distillery that many, including us – up to a point, have never heard of before. Situated between the north and south Japanese alps, Mars Shinshu is Japan’s highest whisky distillery, at nearly 800 meters. The Hombo family have distilled for more than a century and they added whisky to their repertoire in 1949 in Kagoshima. That was the southernmost whisky made in Japan until 1984, when all whisky production was moved to the current location in Nagano. The Shinshu distillery was mothballed in 1992 but then was revived in 2007. This particular expression was made in a limited edition of only 300 bottles and is modern blend made up of ex-Bourbon and Japanese wine casks.
On the nose: there are initial notes of oatmeal, a burnt rice-like note, subtle orange and a waft of liquorice. More notes start to emerge in the form of vanilla, butterscotch, honey and port. There are some delicate spice notes in the form of cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Rounding-off the nose are notes of zest, raisins, lavender, salty caramel and a viscose note. The palate: is much sweet than the nose would suggest, with tonnes of honey, toffee and salted caramel. These are closely followed by notes of vanilla, star anise, turmeric, cinnamon and hints of tropical flavours. Those cinnamon notes are present, alongside aniseed, oatmeal, a waxy-like note and slight waft of floral notes. The finish: medium, sweet, lingering spices and nuttiness, with a hint of smoke.
The verdict: I’m always intrigued by Japanese whisky and just how they manage to produce whisky with such depth in flavour. This non-age statement Tsunahu blend has a lovely combination of notes that just seem to keep expanding, improving all the time. It is a full-bodied whisky that is perfectly balanced and has a little less peat than all other Nikka expression we’ve tasted thus far. This Shinshu Mars Tsunagu has an ABV of 46% – making it a whisky that in my opinion, didn’t need any water at all. However, if you want to get access to the plethora of notes on offer – you may want to add a few drops of mineral water.
Shinshu Mars Tsunagu Japanese Blended Whisky is not a drop you’ll find at any of your specialist whisky shops but is perhaps one that you are more likely to find at auction. However, be prepared to pay approximately £90 for this drop of pure liquid gold.
For more information on the Tsunagu, visit the official Shinshu Mars website.