I know close to nothing about Japanese whisky, and hadn’t heard of Mars distillery. My friend Bret Boivin ran a share on a bottle of the Revival which he scored from Japan directly. He’s since scored me another expression so here’s a post! Here’s what he tells me about Mars:
Shinshu Mars stopped Whisky production in 1992 and restarted in 2011...so all previous releases until now (the Revival) have been from that previous stock. I think Komagatake is a local mountain (but not sure), as this distillery is located in the mountainous Nagano prefecture.
Interesting thing about Mars is that the stills were copies of the original designs of Masataka Taketsuru (the father of Japanese whisky) and therefore are very similar to the stills at Nikka Yoichi distillery.
Mars "Komagatake" - The Revival 2011, 58% A⊕
I was spurred into writing these notes when the whisky exchange had this bottle suddenly for sale (just short of £100, here) but it sold out before I could get to it. Never mind, it’ll be back somewhere else and you’ll see other Mars whisky available.
Nose - Fresh, muscular fruit, furniture polish, kiwi and sour lacquer. It does the "good cask" thing with elegant, musky, slightly cloying sweetness and red fruit. It's spectacular what they can do in Japan with young whisky. With water, opens up a little giving shinier, juicier fruit, toffee and a touch of spirit sulphur. A great nose that has some youth to it but surprises you with other complexities.
Body - Spicy, sour wood, acrylic paint (yes I know what acrylic paint tastes like, don't ask), pear drops and aniseed balls. Quite compelling. With water, more marker pens and volatile chemicals.
Finish - Very long, very hot, very woody. With water, that heat is much reduced, with more pronounced cherry sweets and pear drops.
What's not good about it - Before the water, it's too hot on the delivery. Also, despite the youth this is very expensive in the UK.
What's good about it - A intense, musky, cask led nose that speaks of a higher age and matches the high price. Challenging and fascinating delivery. Seriously delicious to drink.
Mars "Komagatake" - Maltage - 10 years old, 40% A
Thank you Bret for very generously supplying me with this whisky!
Body - Sweet, then bitter and highly wooded. A little burnt xmas pudding. A lovely balancing touch of sulphur and a touch of spice.
Finish - Short, sweet, clean and finishing on some icing sugar.
What's not good about it - This whisky is meant to sit on the shelves in regular shops and is a standard malt from Mars. Therefore I won't fault it for being a lot simpler than the revival. This isn't challenging.
What's good about it - Fresh, balanced, polite and delicious. Extremely drinkable.