Mars Astronomical Observation Bottling 1991 24YO Sherry Cask #157 59%abv

IMG_4004Nose: If it did not say Sherry Cask on the label I would not pick this as a sherry cask matured whisky. Vanilla, toasted oak, grapefruit, orange zest, maple syrup on toasted crumpets, apple sauce. With water added a floral note and white peach emerge.
Palate: Heavy hit of spices that is pretty overwhelming. Ginger, pepper, chili. Baked apples, grapefruit, Brazil nuts. Really needs a large splash of H2O to quell the spicy fire but when added there is some lychee, coconut and nougat.
Finish: Ginger, Brazil nuts, slightly burnt apple pie, nougat and drying oak.
Last Word: Quite the oddity as it is not like any other sherry cask matured whisky I’ve tasted whether from Scotland, Japan or the Mars Distillery itself. Not an unpleasant dram when watered down but not a favorite especially when compared with the many great sherry cask whiskies I’ve tried. Long way to go to the end of the bottle so we will see how it develops.

Rating: 83/100

Mars Komagatake Sherry & White Oak Casks 3YO 57%ABV

P1020584Nose: Sherry, orange jus, cereal notes, a little struck match, bread dough, mouldy orange peel, grapefruit.
Palate: Vanilla, butter, cream, bread dough, pepper, mouldy orange peel, green vegetables.
Finish: Struck match, vanilla, sherry, orange jus, boiled greens.
Last Word: The casks blended into this don’t really gel. At the same age(3YO), Mars The Revival bottling is a far better option.

Rating: 79/100

Mars Awai Tradition 2016 40%abv

BAL_3044-2Nose: Honey, sweet lemon, fresh cut timber, raisins, caramel, dried pears, putty.
Palate: Honey, cinnamon, raisins, toffee, dried pears, pepper. A richer flavor on the palate that the Awai Bourbon Casks but still fairly simple.
Finish: Honey, flat cola, yeast, toffee and a little oak.
Last Word: Will be joining it’s sibling the Awai Bourbon Casks as the whisky base for highballs.

Rating: 78/100

Mars Awai Bourbon Casks 40%abv

BAL_3040Nose: Sharp and acetone. Lemon, chlorine, sawdust, cheap bourbon.
Palate: Orange, toffee, dates, pepper, bourbon, a bit soapy. Simple but at least an improvement on the nose.
Finish: Mercifully short.
Last Word: Sells for AUD$94 “Downunder” which is ridiculous for a whisky that is going to end up as highball fodder.

Rating: 74/100

Mars “Komagatake” Rindo Single Malt 52%

P1030184Nose: Sherry, grapefruit, wood stain, an earthy note, dried mixed citrus peel, dried pears, tobacco.
Palate: Well the tobacco is still present but you wouldn’t think you were tasting the same whisky you have been nosing. Candy coated nuts, earthy peat, marzipan, white peaches, cashews, a mix of sweet and savory spices, tinned plums, menthol. Really quite moreish, I kept pouring more drams while writing up these notes.
Finish: Tobacco, earthy peat, cashews and menthol.
Last Word: A well sorted blend of old and new stock and different cask types. Doesn’t really give any clues to the distiller as it is not like any previous offering from Mars Whisky I have tasted before.

Rating: 87/100

Mars Single Cask 1989 20YO American White Oak Cask #618 58%abv

P1020346Nose: Big hit of banana to start. Pineapple, peaches, butterscotch, walnuts, sawdust, honeyed porridge, guava, papaya, caramel, oak. Water adds and incense/sweet tobacco note.
Palate: Hot spices of pepper, cayenne, ginger. Some nuttiness, banana, papaya, salt, sawdust, sweetened pink grapefruit, rum such as Ron Zacapa XO Centenario. Water adds dragon fruit and a nicer balance between heat and sweet.
Finish: Papaya, rum, banana, a mineral element, butter menthols, then drying oak and right at the death pineapple.
Last Word: Another strong AMO cask effort from Mars Shinshu.

Rating: 90/100

Mars Komagatake The Revival 2011-14 58% – First Impressions

Mars The Revival 2011 2

Unfortunately I’ve had a bad head cold for over a week so the sinuses are shot. Still, the excitement of Mars(Hombo Shuzo) first official(over 3 years old) whisky release has gotten the better of me. I just had to post up my first impressions. Even though my nose is MIA I can still pick up some of the fundamentals on the palate.
First thing that comes to mind is a peated version of Chichibu the First with an extra dollop of honey and olive oil. There’s lemon curd/meringue, chocolate, Wurther’s Originals, almonds, wheat bread dough, star fruit, honeycomb, pink grapefruit, salt and pepper. Quite a hot whisky at first but not in an alcoholic/acetone way, more like chili heat. The peat lingers and the oiliness coat’s the palate. Overall, very accomplished for the age and every bit as good IMO as Chichibu’s the First(which I enjoyed a lot). The mild peating adds an extra dimension.
Here’s my tip, forget about mega dollar Karuizawa and Hanyu’s, Mars and Chichibu are on the ascendance so start collecting as many of their ‘standard’ offerings as possible. Sure, not cheap for their young age, but not 1000 bucks plus either!!
I had high hopes for this one after tasting all of Mars New Pot Peated Whiskies from 2-3 years back. I am not disappointed in the least. Pour one and like me you’ll be onto your third in no time!

Mars “Komogatake” Single Cask 1989 24YO American White Oak Cask #619 59%abv

mars-1989-24yo-awo-59Nose: Vanilla, banana, oak, orange, toffee, wood stain. Fish sauce, grapefruit, bbq hotplate and some minerals when a fair bit of water is added.
Palate: Massive grunt without water, the banana, oak and orange still show through with some big cayenne pepper heat. A little water smooth’s things a bit and brings out toffee, barbequed corn, sour dough, still plenty of spicy heat though(hot sauce). Even more water brings out vanilla custard, a metallic element though not unpleasant and even a little ash.
Finish: Depends on how much water of coarse but the following are present, grapefruit, toffee, banana, leather satchel, orange, nutmeg, mineral’s, oak, ash, bbq hotplate.
Last Word: A brute that needs taming with a fair splash of water. None the less, I have never had a Mars AWO cask matured whisky that has failed me yet.

Rating: 87/100

Mars Whisky – It must be getting close.

A comment left today by a regular reader of The Japanese Whisky Review got me thinking. Basically it was in regards to my recent tasting notes on a couple of releases from Mars Shinshu and how difficult they are to source in Europe. These reviews were of stock that has been maturing at the current distillery site, but was distilled before production was stopped and at one stage, thought to be never starting up again.
Now I reviewed some New Pot peated Mars whisky a while back so I thought I’d go check the distilled dates. Yep, March 2011. So, potentially we may see the first of the new production spirit from this great little distillery that can be officially called whisky as early as April this year being 3 years old. Now that is something to get seriously exited about!

Mars “Komagatake” Single Cask 1988 25YO Sherry Cask #569 59%abv

mars-komagatake-single-cask-1988-25yo-sherry-cask-569-58Nose: Dry sherry, cocoa, cherry ripes, dried fruits, madeira, mixed peel, apricot jam, charred oak barrels. Water adds white pepper.
Palate: Cocoa, apricots, nutmeg, dried fruits, orange lifesavers, madeira cake, ginger bread, oak. Water adds some, fresh ginger, cola and praline.
Finish: Madeira, candied nuts, dried fruits, nutmeg, ginger bread, pepper, charred barrels.
Last Word: Old school sherry cask whisky. Think of a cask strength Macallan from yesteryear. What, no Christmas cake you say. It would have been a cliché if I had noted that. At any rate, this is excellent.

Rating: 92/100

Mars “Komagatake” Single Cask 1988 25YO American White Oak # 555 46%

d7k_7631Nose: Papaya, mango, vanilla, apricot jam, oak, leather, banana, toffee. Delightful.
Palate: Plenty of punch for 46%. Vanilla slice, banana, oak, mango, apricot, rhubarb, leather, ginger bread, sweet tobacco, white pepper, cashews, salt.
Finish: Leather, tobacco, white pepper, rhubarb, ginger bread, cashews, banana.
Last Word: Mars is to American White Oak cask whisky as Yamazaki is to Sherry cask whisky. You just can’t go wrong.

Rating: 91/100

Mars “Komagatake” 24YO Bourbon Barrel 58%abv

mars-komagatake-bourbon-barrel-24yo-58Nose: Ginger bread, rye, mandarin, vanilla, dried fruits of mango, papaya and peaches. Tobacco, leather, oak. Luscious!
Palate: Big rye spices, ginger bread/ale, strawberries, big salt, cloves, dried stone fruits, licorice allsorts, pine, hint of smoke. Water adds cashews, fizzy sherbet and marzipan and makes the whole creamier.
Finish: Dried stone fruits, oak, fresh ginger, ginger ale, cloves, eucalyptus cough drops, a little tar and wisps of smoke.
Last Word: Only 120 bottles from 4 casks. The Angels got their share and luckily I got mine. A privilege to own but I’ve got to hide the rest of the bottle, a quarter down in a few days and I want more!!

Rating: 93/100
*Update 6/7/13 There is now a subtle exotic fruit note coming through on the palate reminiscent of Bowmore Bicentenary 1964. Hard to mistake as those ’64 Bowmore’s where quite unique.

Mars “Komagatake” 22YO 43%abv

mars-komagatake-22yo-43-2Nose: An elegance reminiscent of the 3 plus 25. A subtle interplay between the American White Oak and sherry casks. Vanilla, crème brulee, strawberry, guava, oak, leather, dried fruits.
Palate: Vanilla, banana, dried fruits, leather, tobacco leaf, gentle spices, a little nutty, a little oily.
Finish: Lingers on dried fruits and tobacco leaf. The oiliness remains to the end.
Last Word: A deft blending of different cask types. Wish it was at least 46%abv though.

Rating: 88/100

Auction watch. What a a difference an award makes – Mars 3 Plus 25 Pure Malt 28YO 46%

So this whisky has won a couple of ‘whisky awards’ of late. As you will see from my notes, I was already a big fan back when it was first released. So what’s going on with this bottling outside of Japan a couple of years later. Now I follow whiskyauction fairly closely. I think this may be the first time I have seen this particular Mars bottling listed. Now I paid about Euro 115 in 2011. Bidding is currently at Euro 242. Auction finishes on the 8th of June. I’ll be tracking to see where this one ends up.

UPDATE 27/5/2013 – I’ll add that some retailers in Japan who did not stock this bottling when it was first released, now have it on the shelves with a ‘NEW’ tag. Price in Japan however, remains the same as in 2011.

Mars “Komagatake” Aged 22 Years 43%abv


Yesterday saw the release of a new bottling from the Mars Distillery. This one is a blend of American White Oak and Sherry Cask matured whisky and aged for a minimum of 22 years. According to the press release a total of 4 casks were used. I tasted this one at TIBS/Whiskylive Tokyo last month and initial impressions were favorable. Full tasting notes will follow at a later date as I have placed my order. Only 1359 bottles available at a price of Y9500. A fair price I believe, especially for a 750ml bottle. For international shipping orders Auc-claude whiskies still has a few in stock at the time of writing. If you are in Tokyo try Liquors Hasegawa.
I don’t think they are going to have a problem selling these but I still encourage all Japanese whisky enthusiasts to get behind small distilleries like Mars. Look out for another release from Mars on the 5th of June. I’ll post on this one when it hits the shelves but I can tell you it was a big hit at TIBS/Whiskylive Tokyo amongst the people I talked to and is amazing value for the quality.

Mars and Me

I bought my first bottle of Mars Whisky on my first trip to Japan. That trip, as you my have read on my about page, was the first time I had tasted Japanese whisky of any kind. I certainly had not heard of this brand, then again, I had not heard of Karuizawa, Hanyu, Akashi or many of the long since closed Japanese distilleries either. Can’t say I was particularly impressed by that first bottle of Mars Whisky either. Still, with such a cool name, at least to me, that was not going to stop me trying more of this intriguing little distilleries offerings.
Now I would never think that a company with such a relatively small whisky output would not bottle some average(or worse) stuff. What has really amazed me about Mars though, is that when they get it right, they produce whisky that is the equal of any other distillery in Japan. Check out my Full Tasted List and you’ll see what a relatively high percentage of Gold Medal ratings I have given to Mars whisky compared to how many I’ve tasted so far. The Achilles heel has been most of their sherry cask offerings that have had ‘dirty sherry'(sulphur) issues. They are not alone in this respect as so does Hanyu and Karuizawa. In contrast, after tasting all their new pot peated whisky, this stuff has future legend written all over it once it has fully matured.
The other great thing about Mars whisky for myself is that it is still a relative secret outside of Japan. So, as the rest of the world hangs on every new release of overpriced, mostly overrated Karuizawa, Mars whisky remains a unique and still rare pleasure for those who have access them. Selfishly, I hope it remains so for a little while longer at least.

Mars Private Single Cask #1143 American White Oak 12YO 43% For Espoa

p1000887Nose: Big on apricots, vanilla and banana. Also lemon meringue pie, walnuts and creamy oak. Not complex but quite luscious.
Palate: Nicely spicy, nutmeg/paprika, banana, toffee, vanilla honey, apricots, measured oak.
Finish: Short on apricots, bananas, a little spicy then dry and minerally.
Last word: Not the most complex whisky but nothing off either. Nose is the highlight.

Rating: 82/100

Mars Private Single Cask Sherry Butt 12YO #1124 43% For Espoa

p1000886Nose: Dark cherries, sherry of coarse, burnt orange jus, pomegranates, dried autumn leaves and lots of struck match.
Palate: Pretty much follows the palate though the struck match has diminished a little. There is a cross between a tangy and oily mouth feel. Also some earthiness, peanut butter and nutmeg.
Finish: Fairly short with not a lot going on.
Last Word: Had potential but the sulphury element spoils that.

Rating: 75/100

Mars New Pot Heavily Peated March 2012 9mths Old 60% 50PPM

p1000896Nose: Very similar to the Mars New Pot Lightly Peated 2011 and Mars New Pot Heavily Peated 2011. Agave, yeast, lime, fresh mowed grass, pumpkin seeds, linseed oil, soda water, shoe polish, ash. Youthful of course, but never harshly acetone.
Palate: Richer mouth feel than the 2011s. Agave, chocolate, ash, sump oil, pepper and a certain tanginess. Something sweet like black plums or black cherries. Again, never harsh. Water brings out a sweet nut element.
Finish: Long on ash, peat, agave, chocolate, peppermint.
Last Word: Shows great potential (as the 2011’s did).

Rating: 80/100