[Review] The Lucky Cat May & Luna

Whisky Review
Whisky Review
Hombo Shuzokomagatake Distillery

“The Lucky Cat” is a series of blended whiskies featuring unique cats and created using Mars Whisky’s blending techniques.

“The Lucky Cat series” was launched in 2015 with this series being named after the president of the cat-loving Honbo Shuzo. This is the eighth installment of “The Lucky Cat May & Luna”, featuring the oldest cat, May, who appeared in the fourth installment of the series, and the newest addition, Luna, who appeared in the previous installment, the seventh. This is the first time that more than one cat has appeared in this series. The two cats with different personalities are matched with the whisky’s personality, and the blended whisky is characterized by the “aroma from the use of cherry casks” and the “peaty taste” that follows later.

■Lucky Cats of the past

  Product name Release date Number of bottles released Price (including tax)
The first release The Lucky Cat “Sun” September 25, 2015 1,200 bottles 4,400 yen
The second release  The Lucky Cat “Ash 99” August 25, 2016 4,300 bottles 4,950 yen
The third release The Lucky Cat “Mint” November 10, 2017 3,830 bottles 4,400 yen
The fourth release The Lucky Cat “May” September 22, 2018 3,387 bottles 4,730 yen
The fifth release  The Lucky Cat “Hana” February 1, 2020 3,000 bottles 4,950 yen
The sixth release The Lucky Cat “Choco” March 4, 2021 6,700 bottles 4,950 yen
The seventh release The Lucky Cat “Luna” March 30, 2022 5,220 bottles 4,950 yen
The eighth release  The Lucky Cat “May & Luna” February 24, 2023 8,430 bottles 5,280 yen

1. Manufacturer

Honbo Shuzo Co.

Established 1872
Head office location 891-0122; 3-27 Nanei, Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
Owned distilleries Mars Shinshu Distillery, Mars Tsunuki Distillery

2. Distilleries

Mars Shinshu Distillery

Location 4752-31 Miyata-mura, Kamiina-gun, Nagano, 399-4301 Japan
Start of operation 1985

In 1949, Hombo Shuzo, which had been striving to make “Shochu”, a Japanese distilled spirit, in Kagoshima, obtained a license to produce whisky. Since then, the company has held on to the dream of “someday making real whisky that takes full advantage of the Japanese climate.”
After several years of whisky production in Kagoshima, in 1960, he established the “Mars Yamanashi Winery”, a factory for wine and whisky production in Yamanashi. Then, in order to engage in whisky production in earnest, he searched for an even more ideal location.

The natural conditions for whisky making are very demanding: cold climate with clean air, moderate humidity, and good quality water.

In 1985, after searching for land that met these conditions, Mars Shinshu Distillery was established at an altitude of 798 meters at the foot of Komagatake Mountain in the Central Alps, Nagano Prefecture, in search of the best environment for whisky making.
In 1992, distillation was halted due to sluggish demand for whisky. Later, as Japanese whisky began to be appreciated worldwide, we decided to resume distilling in 2009, when the demand for whisky was on the recovery trend, and started distilling again in 2010. The company re-started in February 2011.
In September 2020, it was completely renovated for the first time in 35 years. The investment is approximately 1.2 billion yen.

In May 2019, a new whisky distillation building (including a barrel cellar) was built to renovate aging facilities, improve the barrel cellar facilities with a view to increasing whisky production, and provide tours of the whisky making process, as well as a visitor building to sell original whisky and merchandise.
The new whisky distillation building has a total floor area of 1,996 square meter (including the barrel cellar, which will hold approximately 2,500 barrels), and the visitor’s building has a floor area of 746 square meter.

■Production capacity: 1.1 tons of malt per day
■Production capacity of malt malt: 1.1 t/day
■Main facilities: 1 malt crusher, 1 mash tun reuter (saccharification tank) 6KL, 3 stainless steel fermentation tanks 6KL, 3 Douglas fir wooden fermentation tanks (relocated) 6KL, and a first distillation kettle (relocated)

Reference: Hombo Shuzo official website

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


3. Product name and photo

The Lucky Cat May & Luna
The Lucky Cat May & Luna

4. Characteristics

Fusion of cherry wood and peat

This blended whisky is characterized by its “aroma from the use of cherry casks” and the “peaty taste” that follows. The aroma of dark chocolate, cocoa, wood, and spicy pepper combined with the peat gives the impression of a fusion of sweetness and a good amount of peat.

4-1. Tasting Notes

Fragrance Floral, elegant, sweet aroma, cocoa, peat aroma
Taste High cocoa, dry, spicy and well peated
Aftertaste Herbal freshness and pleasant peat passing through the nose

4-2. Product Specifications

Alcohol content 43%
By Sake Blended
Cask type Cherry casks, etc.
Volume 700ml
Number of bottles sold Limited to 8,430 bottles
Suggested retail price 5,280 yen (tax included)
Release date February 24, 2023

5. Awards

No awards received at this time.

6. Price

6-1. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price

Product Name The Lucky Cat May & Luna
Capacity 700ml
Suggested retail price Tax included: 5,280 yen

6-2. Resale Price on Mercari

The resale price on Mercari is around 8,500 yen to 9,500 yen. (*As of 4/5/2023)

6-3. Sold price on Yahoo! Auction

Sold price on Yahoo! Auctions: Lowest 6,215 yen Highest 10,000 yen Average 7,816 yen (*Statistics for the past 180 days from 4/5/2023)

6-4. Rakuten, Yahoo Shopping, Amazon

It sells for around 11,000 yen on mail order websites. (*As of 4/5/2023)

6-5. Price offered at BAR Shinkai

At “BAR Shinkai” operated by this site, 1 glass of 45ml: 1,980 yen, 30ml: 1,320 yen, 15ml: 660 yen.


7. Summary

The mouthfeel is dry, but gradually a chocolate-like sweetness emerges. The peat comes out gently afterwards, so it is hard to feel the sweetness, but both the elegant sweetness and the peat character are alive. The cherry barrels give it a nice bitter oaky flavor, but it is also slightly oaky.

Hombo Shuzo has been consistently releasing new products anyway. The Mars Shinshu Distillery has released the “Komagatake,” “Cosmo,” and “Iwai” series, as well as the “Papillon series (some of which are available at the Tsunuki Distillery),” “Lucky Cat series,” and others.

Mars Tsunuki Distillery has developed only “Tsunuki” as a series, from the first “Tsunuki First” to “Tsunuki Peated” and “Single Malt Tsunuki 2022 Edition”.

In 2022, the company is vigorously expanding its product lineup, including the release of a new series of blended malt whisky, “MARS The Y.A.”, which is made by aging the original spirit from the Mars Shinshu Distillery and the Mars Tsunuki Distillery in the “Yakushima Aging Cellar”.

■ Please be sure to read other articles about Hombo Shuzo.





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.

Misato Ushiwata

Born in Fukushima Prefecture.
She attended a university in Tokyo, where she studied brewing and other sciences while translating articles for the "Japanese Whisky Dictionary".

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