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Collection: Mars-Shinsu Distillery

Japans Highest Distillery at 798 Meters/ 2,624ft above sea level


The company was founded back in 1872 by Honbu Matsusa. Honbu had a vision for the company: Not only should it focus on business promotion, but it should also emphasize social service and responsibility. His successors have tried their very best to carry out this vision and contribute to society.

The Honbu family have been distilling for more than a century and they added whisky to their repertoire in 1949 in Kagoshima. That was the southernmost whisky made in Japan until 1984, when they began to search for the perfect whisky-making spot. Kagoshima, after all, situated on the southeast corner of Kyushu, isn’t the most natural spot in the world to make whisky.

Rather more adequate are the colder northern districts, with their moderate levels of humidity and high quality water, and it was to this area that the company looked. And so Hombo finally selected an interesting location for their distillery, which is situated in the small village of Miyada, 798 metres above sea level, high up in the Japanese Alps in Nagano, not far from Tokyo. The population of this small town is just 9.000. It is a cold district where fog often occurs and the temperature falls below -15 degrees Celsius during the winter months, and the humidity during summer is moderate and the water is of high quality, making the area an ideal location for whisky production.

In 1985, Honbu Brewing (“Honbu Shuzo”), a Japanese “shochu” maker from Kagoshima Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, founded the Shinshu Distillery in Miyata village in Nagano Prefecture as a base for the production of whisky and brandy. Production was sold under the brand name of Mars Whisky.


The distillery, which used to produce whisky only during winter, as it also produced other distilled liquors such as brandy, halted its whisky production in 1992, due to sluggish demand. In 2011 production was resumed following the recovery of the whisky market first seen in 2007. The pot stills, moved from the Yamanashi Plant, were designed by Kiichiro Iwai, based upon the records left by Masataka Taketsuru, and, in fact, closely resemble the straight-head stills used at the  Yoichi Distillery.


At the distillery shop, complimentary sampling of whisky, beer and wine is available, in addition to the tasting of beer from the neighbouring Minami-Shinshu  Komagatake Brewery for a small charge.