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Whisky Reviews

Mars Komagatake Vacation Whisky 2015 Always Christmas Single Anejo Cask For Sake Shop Sato, 5 Years Old, 61% ABV | 信州マルス 駒ケ岳 2015 アネホカスク for SAKE SHOP SATO


One of the great opportunities for world whiskymakers ie. those operating outside of Scotland, has always been the freedom to mature whiskies in a much wider range of cask types.

Scotch rules on what types of barrels can be used to mature whiskies, which were once designed to protect the quality of the Scotch category, had at some point began to chafe when it seemed to have become more of a limitation than anything.

Whiskymakers outside of Scotland were able to exercise such freedoms without any negative implications - has anyone stopped buying Japanese whiskies just because it didn't abide by Scotch regulations? Heck, folks were buying anything that looked Japanese even if they weren't made in Japan!


Agave harvesting for tequila making.


Of course some requirements are necessary to legitimise any category of products, but the thing about rules are that they are by nature rigid, even in the face of changing contexts and attitudes. 

And so, Scotch rules began to finally buckle and relax to allow a wider range of freedoms for Scotch whiskymakers, while ironically, Japanese regulations tightened to cut out faux Japanese whiskymakers. Almost both converging to become more similar to one another than ever before, if anything.


Mars' Shinshu Distillery with Mt. Komagatake in the backdrop.


Today we've got something really unusual - a single cask from Mars' Komagatake range, that's been aged in a tequila anejo cask (anejo being tequila that is aged (1 to 4 years) for Sake Shop Sato which is an established liquor store in Osaka.

It comes with a really cute label and a title "Santa Claus Vacation", which is a series that Sake Shop Sato has run for several years, and is supposed to be about how Santa Claus is so hardworking that he's always thinking about Christmas and how he wants everyone to have a good time, even on vacation.

Here Santa Claus is depicted climbing Mt. Komagatake, which is a nod to the Mars distillery where this whisky was made.

I'm excited! Let's give it a go!

Mars Komagatake Vacation Whisky 2015 Always Christmas Single Anejo Cask For Sake Shop Sato, 5 Years Old, 61% ABV | 信州マルス 駒ケ岳 2015 アネホカスク for SAKE SHOP SATO - Review / レビュー


Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Gold

Aroma: Really aromatic - alittle bit smoky, denser honeyed sweetness, with a side of lightly vegetal greenness that’s alittle more cooked fleshy aloe vera or cactus - lightly bright but more earthy darkness, thick and herbaceous. A light chalkiness of clay too. Mostly a mix of honeyed sweetness and cooked vegetal, fleshy succulents. 

Taste: Very oily and buttery, it starts peppery but quickly moves to a mix of sweet honey and light vegetal flavours - again those fleshy cooked cactus. The somewhat sweet glossy initial flavour reminds me of agave syrup. More herbaceous flavour - mint and eucalyptus and thyme, very aromatic stuff! It’s almost potpourri like, also reminiscent of herbs cooked in butter and mint jelly.

Finish: Intense warmth, turning slightly medicinal and herbaceous - eucalyptus notes here. It leaves with a very interesting oily texture of melted butter. Gentle notes of clay here too - alittle chalky and earthy.


My Thoughts

Incredibly lovely! The most immediate question is of course whether malt whisky goes with tequila flavours - and this gives a definitive yes! It had great integration between the sweeter honeyed flavours and the gently vegetal herb and fleshy cactus notes. It’s such an interesting combination that gives a whole new dimension that I haven’t yet found in whiskies, and adds to the overall complexity of what flavours are possible.

There’s also something about the texture here where it’s almost like melted butter - it’s glittle perplexing at first only because it’s so unusual but personally I really enjoyed it.

The highlight for me was the almost potpourri or herbs cooked in melted butter flavours that came out on the palate - just intensely flavourful, aromatic and just so tasty - and unique!


My Rating: 9/10 🤩


Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most whiskies, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.