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This review features samples I received as part of my subscription to Whisky Pioneer. The service delivers a new 6cl sample to your door every month for a cost of £7.95 with each sample packaged in a unique recycled plastic bottle.
To create the bottle, Whisky Pioneer worked with Prevented Ocean Plastic, a company that specialises in collecting plastic from coastal areas. This ocean-bound plastic is defined as coming from an area within 30 miles of the coast or major waterway that feeds the ocean. There is a particular focus on countries that lack waste management infrastructure and regions overwhelmed by population growth or tourism. Without action, there is a strong probability that this plastic would end up in the ocean.
The sample bottles are fully recyclable. You can either pop it in the recycling at home or return it to Whisky Pioneer to be used again.
*Full disclosure: This post is not a paid partnership. Whisky Pioneer did send me a free introductory sample back in August but I liked the service so much I signed up. The whiskies reviewed in this article are part of that paid subscription.
The Hombo family have been distilling in Japan for more than a century but only turned their hand to making whisky in 1949. Their original distillery was located in the Tsunuki region of the Kagoshima Prefecture on the southernmost island of Kyushu but in 1984, the family moved the business to Miyadi village in southern Nagano Prefecture.
The new site’s alpine setting was blessed with cool temperatures which slowed the maturation of the aging spirit. The Mars Shinshu distillery is the highest in Japan, at just over 2,600 feet.
The distillery was mothballed in 1992 but resumed production in 2012. Then, in 2016, the family expanded with the addition of the Tsunuki Distillery. The acquisition took the company back to the town in which it was first created, decades before.
Mars Kasei Blended
Kasei is a blend of both malt and grain whiskies from the Mars Shinshu distillery. Bottled at 40%, it retails around £41.00.
Smell: Lots of breakfast cereal at first. Then honey and lemon. Creme brulee. Green apples. Pear. Orange peel. Brown sugar and baking spices.
Taste: Fruity arrival with apple, pear, oranges, lemon and lime. Then comes honey with a light touch of oak. The finish is quite subtle with the grain character to the fore and a gentle touch of spice. Light-bodied.
Thoughts: A well put together blend that sits at the lighter end of the whisky spectrum. To be honest, it’s a little too delicate for my taste but I can still appreciate its silky feel and subtle complexities. The price is reasonable but there’s a lot of competition at that level and I’m not sure if it does anything to really stand out.
If nothing else, it’s a good example of the deft and precise Japanese blending style without the inflated price tag that often comes with such bottlings. I’m pleased to have tried it as part of my subscription but I’m not sure I’d rush out to buy my own bottle.
Mars Maltage Cosmo Blended Malt
Maltage Cosmo is produced by blending malt whisky from the Shinshu distillery with single malt Scotch, imported from undisclosed Scottish distilleries. Bottled at 43%, it retails around £55.
Smell: Dark chocolate. Walnut. Raisins. Allspice. Runny honey. Orange creams. Cherry. New leather. Old oak.
Taste: Lots of sherry influence on the palate with raisins, sultanas and figs. Cinnamon and ginger. More dark chocolate and a touch of tobacco.
Thoughts: This one is a little more to my taste. It’s bigger and bolder and it’s richer and carries more weight on the palate. There’s been some really good interaction with sherry casks without the whisky ever being allowed to stray into one-dimensional sherry bomb territory, again showcasing that careful, precise Japanese blending.
It’s bottled at 43% which helps to increase the intensity a little but I can’t help wondering what it would be like if boosted to 46%.
The price point isn’t excessive but again I feel like it’s in congested territory. There are lots of blended malts on the market at this kind of price and to the detriment of Maltage Cosmo, many of them are bottled at 46%. That said, it is a decent whisky and if someone wanted to dip a toe into the Japanese whisky market, this might be one of the more affordable ways to do it.
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