Whisky, 'Iwai Tradition - Sakura Cask', 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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For this limited edition from Mars Shinshu, Iwai Tradition (a core expression in Skurnik’s Japanese whisky stable) is aged an additional 6 months in casks made from the Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree, the highly prized wood known as Sakura. Part of a new and ongoing series that will see four seasonal releases per year, this ‘Spring’ release was delayed in 2020, but makes the whisky no less delicious. The honey, toffee, and dark cherry notes inherent in Iwai Tradition are beautifully complemented here by the high-toned, floral characteristics imparted by the Sakura. An interesting side note: the Sakura casks (sourced from Ariake Sangyo Co., Japan’s only independent cooperage) are rectangular, reflecting the difficulty of molding this wood to traditional cask shapes. This special release, blended Japanese whisky is bottled at 40% ABV.