[Review] MARS The Y.A. #01

Whisky Review
Whisky Review
Hombo Shuzokomagatake DistilleryTsunuki Distillery

“MARS The Y. A.” was born as a new whisky brand specializing in “Yakushima-aged malt whisky”.


Malt distilled at the Mars Shinshu Distillery and the Mars Tsunuki Distillery are used. This blended malt whisky is matured in the “Yakushima Aging Cellar”, which was newly established in June 2016 on Yakushima Island, a World Natural Heritage island and the highest island on Kyushu, Miyanoura-dake, which is located 60 km southwest of the Kagoshima mainland and is said to be the Alps floating above the sea. The “Yakushima Aging Cellar” is located in the “Yakushima Densho Kan”, a shochu brewery owned by Hombo Shuzo on Yakushima. It was built to store the original whisky.

“MARS The Y.A. #01” is officially labeled as the first release, so it will be interesting to see how the series will develop in the future.


1. Manufacturer

Hombo Shuzo Co.

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

2. Distilleries owned

Mars Shinshu Distillery

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

The Honbo Shuzo, which had been striving to make “Shochu”, a Japanese distilled spirit, in Kagoshima, obtained a license to produce whisky in 1949. 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 suspended due to a slump in demand for whisky. In 2009, when demand for Japanese whisky was recovering and Japanese whisky was gaining worldwide recognition, Mars decided to resume distilling and started again in February 2011.
In September 2020, the distillery was completely renovated for the first time in 35 years. The investment will be approximately 1.2 billion yen.


From May 2019, renovation of existing facilities and equipment, including a new whisky distillation building (including a barrel cellar) for the purpose of renovating aging facilities and upgrading barrel cellar facilities with a view to increasing whisky production, and for tours of whisky making, and a visitor building for the purpose of selling original whisky and merchandise.
The new whisky distillation building has a total floor area of 1,996 m2 (including the barrel cellar, which will hold approximately 2,500 barrels), and the visitor’s building has a floor area of 746 m2.

■Production capacity: 1.1 tons of malt/day
■Production capacity of raw malt: approx. 700L/day, approx. 185KL/year (planned for FY2020)
■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, first distillation kettle (relocated)

Reference: Hombo Shuzo official website

See also ↓ for information on Mars Shinshu Distillery.



Mars Tsunuki Distillery

Location 6594 Tsunuki, Kaseda, Minamisatsuma-shi, Kagoshima 899-3611
Start of operation 2016

Tsunuki in Kaseda, Minamisatsuma City. Mars Tsunuki Distillery, the southernmost whisky distillery on the mainland, is located here in the green mountains in the southwest of Satsuma Peninsula.

Tsunuki, located in the southwestern part of the Satsuma Peninsula, is in a long basin along the Kaseda River, a tributary of the Manose River. Surrounded by Mt. Kurata (475m) to the east and Mt. Nagaya (513m) to the west, the basin-like topography makes the summers hot and the winters cold, which are extremely severe in South Satsuma.
The area has a natural environment that is a “blessing from nature” with good water resources (Mt. Kurata spring water), and is known as “Tsunuki Mikan” (mandarin orange), which is cultivated by making effective use of the mountain slope.
Blessed with a mild climate and good water resources, Tsunuki is the birthplace of the Honbo Shuzo. It has been more than 100 years since the brewery started making shochu using “Satsuma sweet potatoes”, one of Satsuma’s representative specialties.
Reference: Mars Tsunuki Distillery official website

3. Product name and photo

MARS The Y.A. #01
MARS The Y.A. #01

4. Characteristics

“MARS The Y.A.” is a Japanese whisky that has been matured in this unique environment. This first release is vatted mainly with malt whisky distilled in Shinshu and Tsunuki and aged in bourbon barrels. Enjoy a bottle with a fruity aroma reminiscent of the tropics and a flavor reminiscent of the sea breeze from the coast with its raised coral reefs on the east side of the cellar, and feel the uniqueness of Yakushima Island.
*This product conforms to the “Japanese Whisky Labeling Standards” of the Japan Western Whisky Brewers Association.
Reference: MARS The Y.A. #01|Honbo Shuzo Co.

4-1. Tasting Notes

AromaTropical fruits, vanilla
TasteHoney, vanilla from bourbon barrels, almond aroma
AftertasteOaky sweetness, lemon, and a hint of tartness on the lingering finish

4-2. Product Specifications

Alcohol Content52%
By SakeBlended Malt
Barrel typeBourbon barrels, etc.
Content Volume700ml
Number of bottles soldLimited to 12,000 bottles
Suggested retail price9,900 yen (tax included)
Release dateLate June 2022

5. Awards

No awards received at this time.

6. Price

6-1. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price

Product nameMARS The Y.A. #01
Suggested Retail PriceTax included: 9,900 yen

6-2. Resale price on Mercari

Resale prices on Mercari range from around 12,400 yen to 30,000 yen. (*As of 7/4/2022)

6-3. Sold price on Yahoo! Auction

Sold price on Yahoo! Auctions is Lowest 13,500 yen, highest 16,000 yen, average 14,560 yen (*Statistics for the past 180 days from 7/4/2022)

6-4. Rakuten, Yahoo Shopping, Amazon

It is also available on mail order sites for around 19,800 yen. (*As of 7/4/2022)

6-5. Prices offered at BAR Shinkai

At “BAR Shinkai” operated by this site, 1 glass, 45ml: 2,970 yen, 30ml: 1,980 yen, 15ml: 990 yen.


7. Summary

If you want to enjoy the individuality of this whisky, drink it straight, but this whisky is also recommended with soda. The sweetness of honey, vanilla, a little bit of oak astringency, and a touch of saltiness give the whisky a depth of flavor that is not simply an extension of what you get when drinking it straight.

As is true of all Hombo whiskies, the price of Hombo’s whisky is under 10,000 yen, while most Japanese whiskies nowadays are priced at 10,000 yen or more. And this quality. It must be the fruit of tireless corporate efforts. It is one of the distilleries that makes you want to support.


Please take a look at 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.

鈴木 あかり

Born in Saitama, Japan.
Also active as an actor and graphic designer. He joined Shinkai BAR because he likes to drink. He is in charge of translating articles into English and other languages for the "Japanese Whisky Dictionary".

鈴木 あかりをフォローする
Japanese Whisky Dictionary