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Hombo Shuzo Co. was founded back in 1872 by Honbu Matsusa as a small producer of alcoholic beverages, primarily as a Japanese shochu maker. It wasn’t until 1949 that the company acquired a licence to produce whisky in Kagoshima Distillery, in the southeast corner of Kyushu. Hombo Shuzo stayed in the southernmost whisky distillery in Japan until 1984, when it moved its whisky-making operation to Shinshu Distillery*, situated gloriously between Japan’s soaring Southern Alps and the towering Central Alps in Miyata city in the Nagano prefecture. Complete with a stunning view of the imperious Mt. Komagatake at just over 2,600 feet (798 meters) above sea level, not only is Shinshu Distillery one of the highest altitude whisky distilleries currently in production globally, but it's also the absolute highest in Japan. This location wasn’t chosen for its picturesque views however, but because Hombo Shuzo wanted its whisky to be affected by the more moderate levels of humidity, which would prolong maturation, and the high-quality water source. While sluggish demand for whisky in this era led to a temporary halting of production in 1992, normal service was resumed in 2012, and since then Mars whisky has done very well for itself. The most notable product to come out of this distillery is Komagatake, a single malt whisky named after the most imposing of the many nearby mountains; and Mars Maltage Cosmo, which was introduced to the market in July 2015 as a homage to the distillery’s location, referring to the sky that can be seen at night when looking out from the aforementioned Mt. Komagatake. *I’ve called it Shinshu Distillery, but the truth is you may know it by another name. The distillery is often called Shinshu, or Shinshu Mars, or just Mars, or Hombo Mars - it’s all a tad confusing. So, let’s clear things up. The official name of the distillery is Shinshu, hence why I called it that. However, it’s owned by Hombo Shuzo (sometimes titled as Hombo Brewing Co.) and the whisky produced is sold under the brand name Mars Whisky.

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