Single Malt Whisky, 'Tsunuki: The First', Mars Shinshu
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.
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Hombo Shuzo, the company behind Mars Shinshu distillery, opened a second distillery in Tsunuki, the birthplace of the Hombo family enterprise, in November of 2016. The climate at Tsunuki Distillery is drastically different from that of Mars Shinshu, as it sits at sea level and experiences higher humidity and large fluctuations in temperature. The goal of this new location was not necessarily to increase production, but to experiment with terroir.
This bottling marks the very first single malt to be distilled at Tsunuki, produced between 2016 and 2017. Aged for just over three years in ex-bourbon barrels and sherry casks, this rich single malt exudes the enticing sweetness of vanilla and maple on the nose, leading to a fruity, pastry palate of banana crepes and apple pie and a finish of citrus, pine nut, and cinnamon. Only 1,122 bottles were produced of this highly anticipated single release, bottled at 59% ABV.