Whisky Review
Whisky Review
Hombo Shuzo

Iwai Tradition” is a commemorative blended whisky released in 2010 to honor the achievements of Kiichiro Iwai, who supported Hombo Shuzo in its early days of whisky making. More than half a century of Hombo Shuzo’s whisky making techniques and experience have been poured into this whisky.


1. Manufacturer

Hombo Shuzo Co.

Establishment 1872
Head office location 3-27, Minamisakae, Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, 891-0122, Japan
Owned distilleriesMars Shinshu distillery, Mars Tsunuki distillery

2. Distillery

Mars Shinshu distillery

Location 4752-31, Miyata-mura, Kamiina-gun, Nagano 399-4301, Japan
Start of operation1985

It was in 1949 that Hombo Shuzo, which had been striving to make shochu, a Japanese distilled liquor, in Kagoshima, obtained a license to produce whisky. Since then, the company has been holding onto the dream of one day producing a genuine whisky that takes advantage of the Japanese climate.
In 1960, after several years of whisky production in Kagoshima, he established the Mars Yamanashi Winery

in Yamanashi, a factory for wine and whisky production. Then, in order to engage in whisky production in earnest, they searched for an even more ideal location.

The natural conditions for whisky production are very severe, including a cold climate with clean air, as well as moderate humidity and good quality water.
After searching for a site that met these conditions, we opened the Mars Shinshu Distillery in 1985 at an altitude of 798 meters at the foot of Mount Komagatake in the Central Alps of Nagano Prefecture, in search of the best environment for whisky production.
In 1992, the distillery stopped distilling due to sluggish demand for whisky. Later, as Japanese whisky began to be appreciated worldwide, the demand for whisky began to recover in 2009.
In September 2020, the distillery will be completely renovated for the first time in 35 years. The investment will be approximately 1.2 billion yen.

From May 2019, the whisky distillation building (including barrel storage) will be newly constructed for the purpose of renovating aging facilities, building barrel storage facilities with an eye to increasing whisky production, and observing whisky production, and the visitor building will be newly constructed for the purpose of selling original whisky and goods, and existing facilities and equipment will be renovated.
The new whisky distillery building has a total floor area of 1,996 square meters (including a barrel storage room that will hold approximately 2,500 barrels), and the visitor building has a floor area of 746 square meters.
Reference: Hombo Shuzo official website

■ Production capacity: 1.1 tons of raw malt/day

■ Brewing capacity: approx. 700 liters/day, approx. 185 kl/year (planned for FY2020)
■ Major equipment: 1 malt grinding machine, 1 mash tun reuter (saccharification tank) 6KL x 1, stainless steel fermentation tanks 6KL x 3, Douglas fir wooden fermentation tanks (relocated) 6KL x 3, first distillation kettle (relocated)

For more information about Mars Shinshu Distillery, please see here ↓


3. Product name and photo


4. Features

Grain-derived, heavy and satisfying aroma.

It is characterized by a complex and pleasant aroma, gentle and soft on the palate, but with a firm body and a sense of maturity. Elegant and dignified taste. By vatting various cask types and peated malt raw materials in a perfect balance , you can enjoy an elegant softness on the palate and a balanced harmony with each taste. It is a blended whisky.

4-1. Tasting Notes

AromaModerate aroma of peat and a touch of alcohol. After a while, vanilla and ripe raisins appear. There is more peat than I expected, and a strong smokiness. Complex and pleasant aroma.
TasteUnlike the heavy image, the mouthfeel is soft, rich honeyed, buttery, burnt caramel, floral like yellow flowers, slightly spicy, peachy and fruity.
AftertasteA pleasant bitterness like carbonated water and a pudding-like sweetness that leaves a soft aftertaste.

4-2. Product Specifications

Alcohol content40% alcohol by volume
alcohol categoryBlended Whisky
Barrel typeBarrel type
Number of bottles soldNumber of bottles sold
Suggested retail price2,200 yen (tax included)
Release date2010

5. Awards

Received the Silver Medal and the highest Outstanding score at IWSC in 2013.

6. Price

6-1. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price

Suggested Retail Price2,200 yen (tax included)

6-2. Resale price on Mercari

The resale price on Mercari is around 2,000 yen to 3,500 yen. (*As of  April 5, 2021)

6-3. Yahoo Auction Sold Price

The current price on Yahoo Auction is 1,000 yen at the lowest, 4,110 yen at the highest, and 2,568 yen at the average (as of April 5, 2021).

6-4. Rakuten, Yahoo Shopping, Amazon

Mail order sites also sell them for around 2,000-2,500 yen. (*As of  April 5, 2021)


6-5. Price offered at BAR SHINKAI

At BAR SHINKAI, which is operated by this website, one cup, 45ml: 1,100 yen

is offered.


7. Summary

It is another rank higher than Mars Whisky’s “Twin Alps” in both price and taste. It is a whisky that can be enjoyed on the rocks, or split as you like without any hesitation in terms of price. The aroma and taste are mellow and rich, and the flavor lingers for a while even with a very light splash of water. The aroma also lingers for a while. It can also be enjoyed in a highball or on the rocks, and as you continue to drink it, you will start to feel a slight sweetness.

Honbo Shuzo is famous for Mars Shinshu Distillery, but recently, they have been releasing whiskys from Tsunuki Distillery one after another, creating high quality Japanese whiskys such as “Tsunuki the First” and “Tsunuki Peated” .

Both the Mars Shinshu Distillery and the Mars Tsunuki Distillery are currently offering tours of their distilleries, although there are some restrictions, so if you are interested, why not visit them?

To apply for a tour of the Mars Shinshu Distillery, click here↓↓↓
Factory tour / MARS Shinshu Distillery

Click here to apply for a tour of Mars Tsunuki Distillery ↓↓↓
Plant tour/MARS Tsunuki Distillery

■ Please check out the other articles about Iwai Tradition.




Lastly: Recommended Books on Japanese Whisky

If you want to learn more about Japanese whisky, which is a global trend, we highly recommend these books.

(1).Whisky Galore Vol.29 December 2021 issue

In the December 2021 issue of Whisky Galore, published by the Whisky Culture Research Institute, we report on 11 Japanese craft distilleries, including some that are open to the public for the first time, under the title of “Japanese Whisky Craft Frontline,” the first of three consecutive issues. Why did the popularity of Japanese whisky and the craft boom occur? We will examine with interviews. Chichibu Distillery / Chichibu No.2 Distillery / Mars Shinshu Distillery / Mars Tsunuki Distillery / Kanosuke Distillery / Hioki Distillery / Ontake Distillery / Osuzuyama Distillery / Kaikyo Distillery / Hanyu Distillery / Konosu Distillery

(2). Japanese Whisky as an Education for Business

This is a book written by Mamoru Tsuchiya, a world-famous whisky critic and representative of the Whisky Culture Research Institute, titled “Japanese Whisky as a Culture that Works for Business” .
The book covers the basics of whisky, the introduction of whisky to Japan, the birth of Japanese whisky, advertising strategies and the rise of Japanese whisky, and the current rise of craft distilleries. This is a book that summarizes Japanese whisky in a very easy to understand way.

(3). Whisky and I (Masataka Taketsuru)

Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka Whisky, devoted his life to brewing whisky in Japan. This is a revised and reprinted version of the autobiography of a man who simply loved whisky and talked about himself. The book vividly depicts the days when he went to Scotland alone to study as a young man and overcame many hardships to complete Japanese whisky, as well as his companion, Rita.

(4). A Letter of Challenge from a New Generation Distillery

Launching in 2019. With the world experiencing an unprecedented whisky boom, what were the managers of craft distilleries thinking and what were their thoughts as they took on the challenge of making whisky? This book tells the stories of 13 craft distillery owners, including Ichiro Hido of Venture Whisky, famous for his Ichirose Malt, who inspired the birth of craft distilleries in Japan.

(5). Whiskey Rising

This is the Japanese version of Whisky Risng, published in the US in 2016, with much updated content. Not only does it describe the history of Japanese whisky in detail, but it also includes data on all the distilleries in Japan, including the craft distilleries that have been founded in recent years. The book also includes descriptions of the legendary bottles that have been released, as well as information on bars where Japanese whisky can be found.

新海 博之

Born July 17, 1981 in Kitahiroshima City, Hokkaido, Japan
After graduating from university, joined NTT Data Customer Service Corporation as a new graduate.
2010: Opened "Azabujuban BAR Shinkai" → 2016: Developed specialty "Yakuzen Curry" → 2018: Opened "Toranomon BAR Shinkai" and in 2019 "Shibadaimon BAR Shinkai" → 2020: Started web media "Japanese Whisky Dictionary".
We will daily communicate the appeal of Japanese whiskey as something we, as bartenders, can do.

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Japanese Whisky Dictionary