Mars Whisky logo with lion, bird, and anchor shield.

Mars Shinshu Distillery

  • Japan
  • Mars 1987 Salon de Shimaji: Earned a stellar rating of 91.69, Mars 1989 Single Cask – Komagatake: Multiple batches received impressive ratings (84.00 – 89.86)
Phone Number
  • +81265850017
  • 4752-31, Miyada, Kamiina District, Nagano 399-4301, Japan

Shinshu Distillery exterior with whiskey barrels in snow.


History of Mars Shinshu

The Mars Shinshu Distillery, renowned in the Japanese whisky industry, presents a captivating history marked by innovation and resilience.

Founding and Establishment

  • Date Established: The Mars Shinshu Distillery was founded in 1985.
  • Owner: Owned by Hombo Shuzo Co., Ltd., a company with a rich history in shōchū production, originating from Kagoshima Prefecture.
  • Location: The distillery is in Miyada, a village in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Japan’s highest whisky distillery is about 800 meters above sea level.

Historical Journey

  • Early Struggles: Hombo Shuzo initially experimented with whisky production in different locations, including Yamanashi and Kagoshima, but faced challenges in creating a whisky that resonated with the delicate palate of Japanese consumers.
  • Relocation and Rebirth: The distillery was relocated to Nagano in the early 80s. Shinshu Mars Distillery was constructed and commenced operations in 1985. However, the declining whisky consumption in Japan during the late 80s led to the distillery’s mothballing in 1992.
  • Resurgence: In 2011, sensing the growing popularity of Japanese whiskies, Hombo Shuzo revived the Shinshu Distillery. This resurgence included replacing the original stills with new ones made in Japan by Miyake, designed to replicate the original ones created by Iwai.

Environmental Influence

  • Natural Setting: Nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps, near Miyada village, the distillery benefits from its natural environment. The pure water, filtered through granite layers and sourced from snowmelt, is pivotal in whisky production.
  • Climate Impact: The region’s climate, with short hot summers and long harsh winters, contributes to a slower, more profound maturation process of the whisky.

Production and Offerings

  • Capacity and Equipment: Following a 2020 expansion, the annual production capacity reached 185,000 litres. The distillery features traditional copper stills and fermenting tanks of Oregon pine wood and stainless steel.
  • Whisky Range: Mars Shinshu produces a variety of whiskies, including single malts with both peated and unpeated barley, world blends with imported grain whiskies, and pure malts blends.
    Notable offerings include the Komagatake range, named after a mountain in the Japanese Alps, and various limited editions and single-cask offerings.The Komagatake range, due to its rarity, has become increasingly sought after, especially the age-statement whiskies like the 30-year-old and 27-year-old versions.

Mars Shinshu Distillery Name Change

The Mars Shinshu Distillery, initially established in Nagano Prefecture, underwent a name change to align with its single malt whisky brand ‘Komagatake.’

The change took effect on March 1, 2024, transitioning from its former name, Mars Shinshu, to the new name, Mars Komagatake Distillery. This name change reflects the distillery’s evolving identity and commitment to producing high-quality whisky.

Awards Won by Mars Shinshu

Mars Shinshu Distillery has achieved notable recognition for its whiskies, earning high ratings and critical acclaim. Here’s a summary of some of their distinguished products and their achievements:

Mars 1987 Salon de Shimaji: This whisky, released in 2014, garnered a high rating of 91.69, reflecting its exceptional quality.

Mars 1988 Single Cask – Komagatake: Released in various years, these single cask expressions have consistently scored high, with ratings such as 86.15 (2013), 88.33 (2014), and 90.38 (2014), indicating their high-quality and popular appeal.

Mars 1988 Mars Malt Gallery: Another vintage release from 2009 rated at 80.75, showcasing the distillery’s capability to produce diverse and rich flavours.

Mars 1989 Single Cask – Komagatake: Released in multiple batches, these have received impressive ratings like 84.00 (2006), 89.00 (2009), and 89.86 (2012), illustrating the distillery’s consistency in producing top-tier whiskies.

Mars 1990 Single Cask – Komagatake: The 2018 release of this whisky was particularly outstanding, achieving a high score of 92.00.

Mars 1991 Mars Malt Gallery: This series includes various releases like those from 2005 and 2009, with ratings such as 87.50 (2009) and 91.00 (2015), showing the distillery’s expertise in crafting aged whiskies.

Mars 1992 Mars – Single Cask: These releases, like those from 2001 and 2004, have received ratings in the mid-to-high 80s, further testament to the distillery’s quality.

Mars Shinshu Tour Information and Experience

Tour Information

  • Group Size: Up to 9 people per group. Entry may be restricted during busy times without a reservation.
  • Reservations: Avoid waiting during peak times.
  • Tasting: Available for a fee, with 20-30 types of whisky.
  • Shop: Sells Hombo Shuzo products and original goods, including limited distillery exclusives.
  • Photography: Allowed, but subject to staff discretion to avoid disturbance.
  • Shipping: Available within Japan but not overseas.

The Mars Shinshu Distillery, nestled at the foot of the Central Alps in Nagano Prefecture, offers a unique and immersive tour experience for whisky enthusiasts. Here’s an overview of what visitors can expect:

Rich Natural Environment

The distillery is located in an ideal spot Hombo Shuzo chose for whisky production, surrounded by the magnificent natural scenery of the Central Alps, a designated national park. Visitors can experience the abundant natural environment that nurtures Mars Whisky throughout the year.

History of Mars Whisky

The distillery showcases the journey of Mars Whisky, which began in 1949. It features exhibits about Kiichiro Iwai, the father of Mars Whisky, and the evolution of the distillery, including the original Iwai-style pot still used until 2014.

Operational Manufacturing Facilities

During the manufacturing period (late August to the end of June the following year), visitors can observe the whisky-making process, including mashing, fermentation, distillation, and storage. The distillery is not operational during the maintenance period from around July to late August.

The Miracle of Barrels and Aging

The distillery’s storage houses quietly hold various original spirits, including “Komagatake”, in various barrels like Bourbon, Sherry, and Mars Winery wine barrels. These barrels impart complex flavours and amber hues to the whisky.

Visitor Building with Paid Tasting

The visitor building offers a bar where guests can taste Mars Whiskies, including “Komagatake” and “Iwai Tradition”, and a shop selling limited-edition products. The bar, made from whisky barrel materials, offers a taste of the local land, complete with the scent of the deep forest.

Flask & Barrel Review of Mars Shinshu

As a whisky collector on numerous distillery tours, I’ve got to say, Mars Shinshu really stands out. Here’s my take on it, a solid 4.7 out of 5.

Right off the bat, the location is a winner – nestled in the Japanese Alps, Mars Shinshu’s setting is as unique as its whisky. The high altitude, I reckon, gives a distinct character to the spirit. You know, there’s something about sipping a dram crafted in Japan’s highest whisky distillery – it’s like you can taste the crisp mountain air.

The range of whiskies they offer is impressive. Their single malts, both peated and unpeated, have this remarkable depth. The Komagatake range, for example, is a real gem. It’s got this balance of sweetness and smokiness that’s just right, not too overpowering.

And the limited editions? They’re like treasure hunts for collectors like me.

What gets me is the craftsmanship. They have a lot of passion and precision in their process. The use of local ingredients, the careful selection of casks, and the way they balance tradition with innovation – it’s all top-notch.

The only thing keeping me from giving it a full 5 is, well, availability. Some of their best stuff is hard to get your hands on, especially those age-statement whiskies. But then again, that exclusivity is part of the charm.

In short, Mars Shinshu is a must-visit for any whisky enthusiast. It’s not just about the drink; it’s the whole experience – the setting, the craftsmanship, the range of flavours. It’s a solid 4.7 in my book.

What To Do Nearby Mars Shinshu

Explore Miyada Village: Located at the base of Mt. Komagatake in the Central Alps, Miyada Village is surrounded by stunning forests and clear air. The village is a serene spot, ideal for taking in the region’s natural beauty.

Enjoy the Local Scenery: The distillery’s location, at 798 meters, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. It’s a perfect place for nature lovers and photographers.

Tour the Distillery: The main attraction is the distillery itself. You can tour the facility, view the warehouse and the stillhouse, and indulge in some whisky tasting at the onsite bar.

Travel Details: To get to the distillery, it’s a 10-minute taxi ride from JR Miyata station. If you’re coming from Tokyo, the journey involves taking the JR Chuo Line to Matsumoto and then transferring to the JR Iida Line for Tenryukyo, followed by a taxi to the distillery. The total travel time from Tokyo is around 4 hours.

Nearby Attractions: While details on specific nearby attractions are sparse, the general area is known for its scenic beauty, with opportunities for outdoor activities and exploring local culture.

Remember, the best time to visit is between November and March, when whisky distillation is in full swing. Plus, winter in the Japanese Alps is picturesque.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Mars Shinshu?

Yukimatsu Gyoza Komagane: This establishment has a rating of 4.0 stars on Google Maps. It is located at 1506-1 Akaho and is open 24 hours. For reservations call +815054909116.

EAT & JOY: It has a rating of 4.7 stars on Google Maps. You can find this restaurant at 3215-15. It  opens at 6:30 PM. Call for reservation at +819019690261 and their address is 3215-15, Miyada, Kamiina District, Nagano 399-4301, Japan.

Shoeiken: This family-friendly restaurant has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. It is located at Japan, 〒399-4301 Nagano, Kamiina District, Miyada, 32661F~3F and you can make reservations at +81265852291.

What hotels are near Mars Shinshu?

Sanyasounoyado Futarishizuka: This hotel has a rating of 4.3 stars on Google Maps. To book them contact them at +81265818181 and address is 4-161 Akaho, Komagane, Nagano 399-4117, Japan.

Guest House Hill Top: Contact information for reservation is +81264238031, and the address is 130 Shinkai, Kiso, Kiso District, Nagano 397-0002, Japan.

Hotel Yamabuki: The Contact number for reservation is +81265833870 and the address is 497-1497 Akaho, Komagane, Nagano 399-4117, Japan.