Mars Distillery Japanese Whiskies

The Mars Distillery lineup of Japanese whisky includes IWAI 45, Komagatake 2020 and Tsunuki the First.

Mars Distillery has announced three releases now available across the U.S.: IWAI 45, Komagatake 2020 and Tsunuki the First. 

IWAI 45 (pronounced “E-Y”) is named for Kiichiro Iwai, a pioneer in Japanese whisky. It’s a bourbon-style Japanese whisky, the company says. The most release of IWAI 45 increased the ABV to 45%. The suggested retail price is $34.99 per 750-ml. bottle. The IWAI line also features the blue label IWAI, mostly corn followed by malt and a hint of rye aged in ex-Bourbon barrels, the company says, and IWAI Tradition, a blending of sherry, bourbon, and wine casks with a dash of peat.

Komagatake 2020 represents the third release in this annual series. This is a single malt whisky aged for more than three years in sherry casks and American white oak make barrels. It has notes of prune, honey, and vanilla on the nose, the company reports, before sweet orange and cocoa powder on the palate. The suggested retail price is $169 per 750-ml. bottle.

Tsunuki the First is a single malt aged for more than three years in bourbon barrels and sherry casks. Tsunuki is the birthplace of Mars’ Hombo family, and its sea-level location results in higher humidity and fluctuating temperatures. This experiment with terroir has produced a rich whisky with sweetness like vanilla and maple syrup, the company says.

The Hombo family began producing shochu in 1909, and has since expanded their portfolio to include sake, neutral spirits, mirin, umeshu and whisky. They obtained their whisky license in 1949 with the help of their advisor, Kiichiro Iwai, and now operate out of two distilleries: Shinshu, the main distillery, built at 2,625 feet in the Nagano Alps; and Tsunuki, based in Kagoshima on Kyushu island, located near the southwest tip of Japan. Future whiskies will be produced at the Yakushima aging site, a Natural Heritage Site and subtropical jungle with Japanese cedar forests.


“It is very exciting to see the evolution of Mars as a producer, coming into this new decade,” says Kris Elliott, co-founder, High Road Spirits. “With IWAI 45, we have an innovative take on an American classic. Komagatake 2020 is one step closer to Mars having a house single malt, and for Tsunuki the First, we see a return to the origins of Mars’ whisky making which began in 1949.”


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