As close to a fruit-forward cocktail Bourbon as you can find… in Japan.
The Hombo family has been creating Wines and Spirits in Japan for more than 100 years. They added Whisky to their products in 1949. In 1984 they wanted to move the distilling operation to a cooler climate, so they closed their distillery in Kagoshima and built a new one high in the mountains of Nagano at an altitude of more than 2600 feet — the Mars Shinshu Distillery. But a few mishaps caused them to cease production in 1992. It opened again in 2011, and new stills were acquired in 2014. But their warehouse still contain hundreds of casks stretching back thirty years. Now at full production strength, this small distillery produces a range of sweet and peated Whiskies.
These days we are used to solid Single and Blended Malt Spirits coming from Japan. But the Mars Shinshu Distillery came out with their Blue Label Whiskey a few years back which is an attempt at what they call "American style" Whiskey — which means Bourbon in any language. Mars Iwai 45 is a higher proof — 45% ABV — version of that same Spirit designed for making cocktails. The mash bill is decidedly high corn (75%) and relatively high malted barley (25%). And it’s aged in ex-Bourbon casks, so the flavor profile is decidedly American, but the uniqueness of the environment and distilling techniques in Japan yield a "stewed fruit" flavor profile.
Nose / Aroma / Smell
The nose has notes of vanilla and butterscotch with stewed apple and strawberry tones.
Flavor / Taste / Palate
The flavor profile leans pleasantly sweet with ripe d’anjou pears, milk chocolate, quince, and toffee.
The finish last long enough with a lingering sweetness.