As close to a fruit-forward cocktail Bourbon as you can find… in Japan.
The Hombo family has been creating Wines and Spirits in Japan for more than 100 years. They added Whisky to their products in 1949. In 1984 they wanted to move the distilling operation to a cooler climate, so they closed their distillery in Kagoshima and built a new one high in the mountains of Nagano at an altitude of more than 2600 feet — the Mars Shinshu Distillery. But a few mishaps caused them to cease production in 1992. It opened again in 2011, and new stills were acquired in 2014. But their warehouse still contain hundreds of casks stretching back thirty years. Now at full production strength, this small distillery produces a range of sweet and peated Whiskies.
These days we are used to solid Single and Blended Malt Spirits coming from Japan. But the Mars Shinshu Distillery came out with their Blue Label Whiskey a few years back which is an attempt at what they call "American style" Whiskey — which means Bourbon in any language. Mars Iwai 45 is a higher proof — 45% ABV — version of that same Spirit designed for making cocktails. The mash bill is decidedly high corn (75%) and relatively high malted barley (25%). And it’s aged in ex-Bourbon casks, so the flavor profile is decidedly American, but the uniqueness of the environment and distilling techniques in Japan yield a "stewed fruit" flavor profile.
Average flavor and slight burn, not my favorite but not bad either. Don’t know if I would purchase again
Good 90 proof that can be had neat. Surprisingly light on the nose, body like a single malt and a warm finish. Very smooth.
I absolutely love this whiskey
Definitely can taste the sweetness. Really smooth.
Easy sipper. Becoming a go to in my rotation
Advent #9. Smelled a lot of ethanol and didn’t get a lot of taste. I wanted to like it and really wanted the flavors in the spiral but did t get them readily enough. Guess it’s not for me.
Phenols on the nose. Sweet pears on the tongue. Lingers on the lips
Sweet and fruity. Really nice! A bottle I can share with the hubs.
Not my taste
Pretty run of the mill. A little bit of everything but not in a complex way
Hint of toffee, spicy & sweetness for a moderately price drink. Aftertaste is a bit flat but good overall value for $30-$35 range.
Nice whiskey, i didn’t find it as sweet,but tasty
Definitely taste the chocolate and sweet. Right in my taste wheel.
Mildly sweet. Much sweeter nose than taste. Decent drink, nothing super special. Would definitely drink again, just not something I would look for.
Great start, strong finish. Just the right amount of sweet.
Sweet but good
Really good flavor and great to sip
Def sweet, lots of complexity for the price point. Solid!
I mostly tasted the milk chocolate in this one, with a little caramel.
Good, goes great with a pipe, fun, sweet and spicy.
Very medicinal smell and taste for me.
Drinkable but not exceptional. Too much ethanol to get much on the nose initially, but after swirling in the glass a few times I got butterscotch and unpeeled pear. On the tongue I get scalded milk and stewed fruit. Finish was a bit thin. Maybe a brief taste of chocolate, but it quickly fades to a non-descript sweetness.
Decent Japanese whisky from the calendar. Preferred without water.
Day 9. I have been indifferent to several japanese whiskeys, however I really enjoy this one and would buy a bottle. Smooth sweet and good price
Smells like cake, buttercream frosting. Incredibly smooth and rich taste. Adding water brings out the stewed fruit.
Distinctly Japanese to my palate. Lightly sweet w notes of caramel dissipating to chocolate. Not very complex, but enjoyable.
Fruity, sweet, and spicy
Very sweet, almost like a bourbon, which is very atypical of a Japanese whisky. Pretty good, but not incredible.
Sweet, fruity with a hint of cinnamon. Nice and smooth with a clean finish. Left me wanting a bit more depth, however.
Would love to taste this in a cocktail made with Fever Tree Smoky Ginger Ale
It’s a little too sweet for my taste.
Delightfully sweet and cinnamon. Super smooth.
Advent Day 9 - Sweet notes from nose to finish with hints of fruity tones. The sweetness was overpowering, but still a nice dram.
Quite nice. When I'm not enjoying whisky, I enjoy cider, and this had lots of apple and apple-adjacent notes (pear, quince). The finish seemed a bit discordant.
Reminds me of a young (but smoother) bourbon. Pleasant, but lacks the complexity and interest to be a sipper.
I can see this mixed into a cocktail. Not a neat drinker—simply too much bite
Light, fruity, clean taste—definitely taste the pear and butterscotch
Nose was a light cream cake sparsely topped with fruit. That theme continued into the palate, where the moderate burn of the opening gave way to a smooth and sweet finish with subtle notes of milk chocolate. Surprisingly rich mouth feel, and not overly sweet as the description sounds.
I really wanted to give it an 8, but the stronger flavors did seem to dissipate a little after the first couple of sips. Probably could use a longer aging, as others have noted.
4 stars neat, 6 stars with a little water. This won’t come as a surprise to people who are good at this endeavor, but the taste profile is dramatically different after you add a little water. Straight out of the vial the alcohol overwhelms the nose and the palate. With a few drops of water, the sweet and the pear come through and is very enjoyable on this December evening.
This has an interesting flavor profile, but could use more aging. Not my favorite of the 2020 Advent, for sure.
Happened to buy a bottle before I received my Advent Calendar (#9). This sweet, fruity Whisky is delightful. Very happy to have a bottle.
Definitely get a lot of sweet in the sip. Very much enjoyed this
(Advent 2020, #9) Sweet carmel & chocolate in the nose. Tasting it, it's smooth with that sweetness and a touch of fruitiness. It's got a nice, long finish. This one was very enjoyable.
Better than I expected. Definitely a fruit forward whiskey, and much smoother than I anticipated. Could use more time aging.
Advent 2020 #9 - great building warmth. Hints of sweet with fruit and smooth all the way through.
The taste is too heavy compared to the Suntory whiskeys.
It was better than I imagined. Smooth finish, slight sweet flavor, and on the backend a little bit of a roasted note.
This was average at best. Not a sipping whiskey by any means. My issue with whiskey has always been the lazy 5 or less years to age. Give it 12 like a good scotch! Mellow that stuff out! This is a good whiskey for a mixer, if you are looking for a sipping whiskey, try Penelope or move to scotch where they are not so harsh!
Deliciously smooth, sweet finish with plenty of woodsy notes and a hint of spice...
Smooth as silk with some fruit hints. Very nice. I spent 15 years in Japan and never had this but wish I had.
Nice whiskey light on the pallet and smooth finish . Nothing really jumps at you except for a low price and how smooth it finishes. A touch of lime and shaken on the rocks perfect summer drink or anytime for that matter
I've been really digging into Japanese Whiskey of late and this is quite good but different from the other Japanese Whiskeys that i've tried. Its a darker color and the flavor is definitely less floral/fruity - it has a pleasant flavor, burns a little at the beginning but smooths out as you get the vanilla and caramel notes. 7/10 but a pleasant surprise compared to other Japanese bottles.
I wasn't sure what I was expecting from a Japanese whisky. Maybe I was thinking it would be an Irish copycat. Not so. This was a pleasant surprise. If you are looking for an entry into the Japanese products, try this. Now, I'm going for bigger game.
Goes down a treat!
My first bottle of Japanese whisky and it was nice. Not very complex or rich but pleasant and smooth. I would not buy again as much better whisky is available for the $45 range.
Nice complexity, definitely getting the vanilla and caramel tastes. Bit sweeter than I’d normally go for and just a little thin. Good overall.
I enjoyed the complexities of this whisky. It filled the mouth with a variety of unique tastes as well as being smooth. The finish lasts a nice amount of time.
While reviewing Lexus' LFA super car, Jeremy Clarkson said that it was perfect and perhaps the most brilliant vehicle he'd ever driven. It was perfect. Every detail had been meticulously crafted. Mars 45 exists in the same vein. It's excellent.
Why 7 out of 10 then? Well, excellent in this case is also somewhat boring. It's smooth and tasty but undistinguished. I'll drink it without remembering it. It's a great whiskey but, like the LFA, at the end of the day you have to accept that great doesn't mean exiting or memorable.
Really enjoyable smooth whiskey. Good sweet fruit flavor. A little pear with some apple.
Floral/caramely flavor. Farely thin with strong alcohol and bitter finish. Quite disappointed. Maybe ok for a mixer.
It was okay, for the price it was great
About what I expected for a Japanese whiskey at this price. It was a little weak, and not completely smooth, but it still had good, classic Japanese whiskey flavors at a much cheaper price than many Japanese whiskeys I can find. It doesn't have much of an aroma as others have pointed out, but for me aroma isn't a huge deal.
Smooth, Farley bland though
Everything they describe. Smooth with caramel notes. A must buy.
Very disappointed. Had minimal if any aroma and was thin.
I was honestly surprised by this one. Great bargain for a Japanese Whiskey.
Disappointed actually; maybe I got a bad bottle, but it was weak, no aroma at all to it. I was surprised.
citrusy, fairly smooth with great body to it
Maybe I had a bad bottle? I was expecting more like what the other comments reflect. Instead, mine was "flat"; not really any kind of draw to my nose, Also, tasted "thin"--no body to it.
The flavors are subtle, but present. Its a good whisky to sip and appreciate all the flavors in it.
Smooth beginning with a spicy finish
This is delicious! It burns at first but then gets sweeter the more you drink it
I'd buy this bottle again without hesitation.
It’s just ok
Smooth at first with a little pepper taste at the end.