Mars Komagatake 1987 Salon de Shimaji X Shinanoya
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Mars is probably the most underrated and complicated distillery in Japan. While they are starting to get more attention, and the prices have gradually increased, most of the older bottles are a 'steal' compared to whiskies of similar age and quality from the likes of Suntory/Nikka. There is a surprisingly good summary of Mars's history from Dekanta here if you would like to know more about them.
This particular #Komagatake has three things going for it:
Its from an American White Oak cask. If you read most reviews for Mars whisky, you will quickly find out that their "thing" is American White Oak casks, and their spirit just does something magical in them. More so true with the pre-shutdown bottles than the newer stuff.
Its a joint bottling for Shinanoya (one of the best liquor shops in Japan) and Salon De Shimaji. Salon De Shimaji used to be a tiny outfit inside of Isetan Shinjuku (now a standalone bar in the Minato Ward of Tokyo), and is run by the eccentric and super cool Mr. Shimaji, who used to be the Japan editor for Playboy. He likes to smoke and he likes you to drink whisky on the rocks. His bottlings typically have the badass smoking skull somewhere on the label.
This is a 1987 vintage. That is my birth year, so im quite fond of bottlings from this year 🥳.
The label on the bottle is absolutely fantastic, one of my favorite labels ever!
Alright, lets get tasting!
Distillery: Shinshu Mars
Bottling Date: 2014 (27 years old)
Cask Type: American White Oak #479
# bottles: 249
Bottled for: Shinanoya and Salon De Shimaji
Auction price at time of writing: no recent auction prices
Original Retail Price: ~$225
Spicy, bright orange, dusty warehouse, lime, pretty hot so let it sit! Strong oak notes, fresh cut wood, creamy, almost margherita like, with a salt rim. After awhile, tropical marshmallows (definitely made that up). Pineapple. Sour plums, baking spices (cumin, coriander), beet root juice (maybe contributing to a chalky note), extremely complex.
With water: mellower, orange gummy bear, sweeter than before and less citric (still there), more vanilla notes. I prefer undiluted.
Blood orange liqueur (one of my favorites), really sweet, then sour Umeshu, white pepper, soy sauce, lots of honey, fighting between bitter and sweet, manuka honey might be a good middle ground. Apple, but the bit closer to the core. It really reminds me of a blood and sand (that's a cocktail, which has blood orange liqueur in it). Also somewhat medicinal, with salted black licorice.
With water: oak comes through more, bitter tea and fermented tropical fruit.
Warming (of course, abv!), cinnamon syrup, fresh cut oak notes (aka really bright tannins), and a little banana on the extremely long finish. I think the lime comes back with underlying creaminess. The saltiness stays present but the licorce fades, orange notes in the form of crystalized candy orange, very long, and then the medicinal notes come back, and something else reminiscent of briney water, and perhaps oysters (will need to try again to verify this last part 😅).
With water: a little creamier on the finish, with prickly spices, orange honey and black tea
Final Score = 93.3
This is a HUGE whisky. It needs time but you won't be disappointed - extremely complex and extremely delicious.
Would I drop >$1000 on this if I had the disposable income? Yes, its extremely complex and the label is badass 👌