[Review] MARS The Y.A. #02

Whisky Review
Whisky Review
Hombo Shuzokomagatake DistilleryTsunuki Distillery

In June 2022, “MARS The Y. A.” was born as a new whisky brand specializing in “Yakushima-aged malt whisky”. This will be the second release.

Malt whisky distilled at the Mars Shinshu Distillery and the Mars Tsunuki Distillery is 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 site and the highest island on Kyushu Island, 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 Yakushim Densho Kan, a shochu brewery owned by Hombo Shuzo on Yakushima. It was built to store the original whisky.
This “MARS The Y.A. #02” is a blended malt Japanese whisky blended mainly with bourbon barrels, just like its predecessor.


1. Manufacturer

Hombo Shuzo Co.,Ltd.

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

2. Distillery

Mars Shinshu Distillery

Location 4752-31 Miyata-mura, Kamiina-gun, Nagano 399-4301
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 click here↓.

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Mars Tsunuki Distillery

Location 6594 Tsunuki, Kaseda, Minami-Satsuma-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 in the mountains full of greenery 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 effectively utilizing 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. #02
MARS The Y.A. #02

4. Characteristics

Yakushima, a World Natural Heritage island, is located about 60 km southwest of the Kagoshima mainland. The Yakushima Aging Cellar is located on this island, which is blessed with steep mountains and abundant water.
“MARS The Y.A.” is a Japanese whisky that has been aged in this unique environment. It is vatted mainly with malt whisky distilled in Shinshu and Tsunuki and aged in bourbon barrels.
You will enjoy the bright fruity aroma that reminds you of the warm climate, the smoky flavor that reminds you of the mysterious scene when the forests of Yakushima are shrouded in fog, and the aroma that reminds you of the sea breeze.
Reference: Japanese Whisky|MARS The Y.A. #02|Hombo Shuzo Co.,Ltd.

4-1. Tasting Notes

AromaVanilla, almond, some smokiness from the back
TasteRipe fruit, sap-like sweet bitterness and oak astringency
AftertasteSlowly lingers with tidal acidity, vanilla and peat.

4-2. Product Specifications

Alcohol Content49%
By SakeBlended Malt
Barrel typeBourbon barrels, etc.
Number of bottles soldLimited to 12,000 bottles
Suggested retail price9,900 yen (tax included)
Release dateEarly May 2023

5. Awards

No awards received at this time.

6. Price

6-1. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price

Product nameMARS The Y.A. #02
Suggested Retail PriceTax included: 9,900 yen

6-2. Resale price on Mercari

Resale prices on Mercari range from around 12,500 yen to 16,000 yen. (*As of 5/8/2023)

6-3. Sold price on Yahoo! Auctions

Sold price on Yahoo! Auctions: Lowest 10,176 yen Highest 14,000 yen Average 11,463 yen (*Statistics for the past 180 days from 5/8/2023)

6-4. Rakuten, Yahoo Shopping, Amazon

Sales on mail order sites could not be confirmed. (*As of 5/8/2023)

6-5. Price offered at BAR Shinkai

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

Information about “BAR Shinkai”
Japanese Whisky Dictionary operates three BAR Shingai stores in Minato Ward, Tokyo. In addition to the Japanese whiskeys introduced on this site, they also hand...

7. Summary

Compared to the previous product, it has a moderate astringency and a slight smokiness.
At first, there is a sweet aroma of vanilla, but after a little while, it changes to a smokiness that can also be detected.
It is a bottle with an excellent balance of sweetness, astringency, and smokiness.

As can be said for all of Hombo Shuzo’s whiskies, the price of 9,900 yen for a whisky of this quality is amazing compared to recent Japanese whiskies. It can be said that it is the result of corporate efforts.

Please take a look at our other articles on “Hombo Shuzo”.

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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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Japanese Whisky Dictionary