[Review] Iwai Tradition Sherry Cask Finish

Whisky Review
Whisky Review
Hombo Shuzo

“Iwai Tradition” is a blended whisky made with respect and gratitude to Kiichiro Iwai, the creator of Mars.
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.
Iwai Tradition Sherry Cask Finish is a blended whisky made by additionally maturing the elegant and profoundly flavorful Iwai Tradition in casks that were used to mature Pedro Ximenez, an ultra-sweet sherry.


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 Wineryin 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

Iwai Tradition Sherry Cask Finish

4. Characteristics

Image exhibited by Hombo Shuzo official website

Blended whisky additionally matured in sherry casks

Iwai Tradition is a blended whisky that has been additionally aged (finished) in empty sherry casks used for Pedro Ximenez, an ultra-sweet sherry. In addition to the rich flavor of Iwai Tradition, you can feel the well-balanced aroma of brown sugar and maple syrup derived from sherry casks and the elegant sweetness.

4-1. Tasting Notes

AromaSweet, syrupy aroma, mellow oak aroma from sherry casks.
TasteThick texture, honey-sweetness, and the ultra-sweet taste of Pedro Ximenez.
AftertasteThe sweet oak aroma changes to a soft and elegant sweetness.

4-2. Product Specifications

Alcohol content40%
by alcoholBlended
Cask typeSherry (Pedro Ximenez) cask finish
Number of bottles soldLimited quantity
Suggested retail price2,970 yen (tax included)
Release dateMarch 26, 2021

5. Awards

There is no award history at this time.

6. Price

6-1. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price

Product nameIwai Tradition Sherry Cask Finish
Suggested retail price2,970 yen (tax included)

6-2. Resale price on Mercari

The resale price on Mercari is around 6,000 yen to 7,000 yen. (*As of March 31, 2021)

6-3. Yahoo Auction Sold Price

The lowest price currently listed on Yahoo Auction is 3,100 yen, the highest is 6,000 yen, and the average is 4,674 yen

(*as of March 31, 2021)

6-4. Rakuten, Yahoo Shopping, Amazon

Mail order sites also sell them for around 10 ,000 yen. (*as of March 31, 2021)

6-5. Price offered at BAR SHINKAI

At “BAR Shinkai”, which is operated by this website, one cup, 45ml: 1,320 yenis offered.


7. Summary

The sweetness in the mouth had a greater impact than the aroma. The mellow sweetness derived from Pedro Ximenez comes rushing in. It is a whisky that ends with sweetness from start to finish, with almost no alcohol (tingling or tingling on the tongue). There is not much complexity, and it is a bit monotonous, but it is easy to drink and recommended for those who have never been good at whisky or those who prefer sweet whisky.
The best way to drink it is straight. You can simply feel the “sweetness” that is the characteristic of this whisky. If you add water, the sweetness becomes weaker (thinner), so if you are not comfortable drinking it straight, you can drink it on the rocks to enjoy the change in sweetness. If you want to drink it as a highball, I think a 1:1 highball with soda would be delicious.
If you prefer the maltiness and peatiness of scotch, you may find it lacking.

Speaking of Hombo Shuzo, the Mars Shinshu Distillery is famous for its blended whisky “Iwai Tradition” and single malt “Komagatake” , but recently, the company has been releasing whisky from the Tsunuki Distillery one after another, including “Tsunuki The First” and “Tsunuki Peated” . The distillery has been producing high quality Japanese whiskys.
In addition, there is an aging cellar in Yakushima, where whiskys distilled at the Shinshu Distillery and the Tsunuki Distillery are aged on Yakushima for commercialization. Since the average temperature is high in Yakushima, the aging process seems to go faster. Even if the whisky is distilled at the same time, there is a difference in the taste of the whisky even if it is aged for the same period of time, depending on whether it is aged in Shinshu or Yakushima.
Both Mars Shinshu Distillery and Mars Tsunuki Distillery offer distillery tours with some restrictions, so if you are interested, why not visit them?

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

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

Please check out the other articles about Honbo Shuzo and 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