Whisky on the Red Dot #07

FEATURE

Whisky on the Red Dot #07

At a Second Distillery, a New Spirit is Born

State-of-the-art Equipment; Analyze, Adjust, Repeat

In nineteen eighty-five, in the picturesque mountains of Nagano, the Hombo Shuzo company began to venture into the world of whisky production, in nineteen ninety-two, a mere seven years later, a massive industry downturn stemming from the nationwide economic recession forced them to put operations on hold.

During the nineteen-year fallow period that followed, they shifted their focus towards working with the barrels they already had in stock, refining each stage of the maturation process and perfecting their well-respected Komagadake and Iwai-Tradition brands before triumphantly restarting their stills in two thousand eleven.

Their tenacity was rewarded just two short years later when their Mars Maltage 3plus25 brand earned the prestigious title of World’s Best Blended Malt Whiskey at the 2013 World Whisky Awards.

With an ambitious eye towards a promising future, Mars Whisky decided to effectively double their manufacturing capacity by initiating operations at a second distillery at the home of their parent company, the Hombo Shuzo Group, in Kagoshima.
The Tsunuki distillery began operations in October of last year. The site manager, Tatsuro Kusano, 28, heads an eager young team of distillers. The gleaming new pot still and washback give the distillery a crisp, fresh dazzle, a fitting image for the optimism engendered in the rebirth of the Mars Whiskey brand.

“We’re on a constant quest to perfect our product,” Mr. Kusano tells us, “We fine-tune our process daily, making subtle adjustments, exploring the full range of possible blends with the whisky we produce both here and at our Shinshu distillery.”

The day we visited the distillery Mr. Kusano milled a batch of unpeated barley malt, specially imported from Germany, and assiduously analyzed the grind and taste of the resulting grist.

The distillery’s mash tun, fermentation tank, and pot still were all custom fabricated for them by Miyake Seisakusho in Gunma prefecture. An alert observer might well notice some eye-catching differences between standard distillery equipment and the beautiful precision apparatus at work here.

“Our mash tun,” Mr. Kusano points out, “has a long vertical observation window, so we can actually see the thickness of the mash and watch the wort form. Normally you’d only be able to see the bubbles on the surface of the mash by looking down on the tun from above. Of course an experienced hand with a trained imagination can work with the wort quite effectively, but actually being able to watch the process takes all of the guesswork out of it.”

The distillery incorporates three distinct strains of yeast, and in order to assure the ideal level of fermentation, they control the temperature of the process with painstaking precision.

“We ferment our wort at a colder temperature than most distilleries,” Mr. Kusano elaborates. “The harsher environment causes the yeast to give off a richer, more fragrant bouquet, and the cell walls of the yeast collapse cleanly, providing additional nutrients to the wort, which are then absorbed by lactic acid enzymes, lending the brew a full, fruity flavor.”

In order to allow the lactic acid enzymes time to fully work their magic, Mr. Kusano allows the wort a luxurious ninety hours of fermentation time. For him, this stage is even more important than the all-critical distillation phase.

This limited-edition smoky young whisky was distilled at the Mars Tsunuki Distillery from their new pot still just this year. They also released a limited run of non-peated malt whisky.

Barrels of maturing whisky are stored Dunnage style with the temperature and humidity inside the aging cellar kept constant throughout the year. The mild climate contributes to an accelerated maturing process.

This limited-edition smoky young whisky was distilled at the Mars Tsunuki Distillery from their new pot still just this year. They also released a limited run of non-peated malt whisky.

Barrels of maturing whisky are stored Dunnage style with the temperature and humidity inside the aging cellar kept constant throughout the year. The mild climate contributes to an accelerated maturing process.

This unique onion-shaped pot still, with its rare glass hatch, took the expert craftsmen at Miyake Seisakusho a full eight months to fabricate. The expertly welded joints speak to the superb quality of Japanese craftsmanship.

アセット 1