Considered a revival of the former Kagoshima distillery that previously occupied the site, and expected to release an exclusive single-malt whisky for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, exciting times are ahead for Mars Whisky’s new Tsunuki distillery.

In November 2016, Hombo Shuzo Co., the company that owns Mars Shinshu Distillery and built the Mars Whisky brand, successfully completed its $5 million construction and operational testing of its second whisky distillery called Tsunuki. Established in Kagoshima Prefecture located on Kyushu island and nestled between two mountains, Tsunuki is the second whisky distillery that Hombo Shuzo Co. has constructed in Kagoshima and is officially the second open distillery by the company.

What’s fascinating about this new distillery is the history behind the company that built it. In the past, three distilleries were opened and two were closed, making Tsunuki the fourth distillery founded and showing the resilience and passion of the company for whisky.

Join us as we take a look at how far Hombo Shuzo Co. has come in whisky production and see what the future holds for its new distillery:

How Hombo Shuzo Co. Entered the Whisky World

Hombo Shuzo Co. was established in 1872 by Honbu Matsusa and started as a shochu and plum wine company in the Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu; their shochu and plum wine making operations still continue to this day. In 1949, the company acquired a whisky license, and that’s where it all began. Before Tsunuki was built, Hombo Shuzo Co. had three distilleries:

  • Yamanashi Distillery (1960-1969)
  • Mars Kagoshima (1978-1984)
  • Mars Shinshu Distillery (1985-1992, 2011-Present)

At the time, whisky wasn’t as well-known as it is today. Due to financial difficulties and low customer demands, the Yamanashi and Mars Kagoshima distilleries had to shut down their whisky production for good. Though Mars Shinshu closed for a period of time, it was the only active whisky distillery from Hombo Shuzo Co. until 2016.

A Bold Risk: The First Step Toward Success with Whisky Production

Shinshu Mars Distillery

Out of the three distilleries Hombo Shuzo Co. established, Mars Kagoshima was the most unique of them all. This is because Mars Kagoshima was the most southerly distillery in Japan, and Kyushu (where Kagoshima Prefecture is located) was well-known for being a shochu powerhouse.

Building a whisky distillery in this area was an out-of-the-box move by the company, as it wasn’t a popular choice of liquor at the time. Before it shut down officially, Mars Kagoshima Distillery managed to release two best-selling, now-vintage single malts that whisky lovers still search for today: Kagoshima Mars Whisky 1984 and Kagoshima Satsuma 1984.

Mars Shinshu Distillery is the main distillery for Hombo Shuzo Co. and is known as the highest distillery in Japan. Located between the north and south Japanese Alps at nearly 800 meters high, this distillery is in the Nagano Prefecture and produces popular whisky brands such as Iwai Tradition and Komagatake. You can find more Mars Shinshu and Hombo Shuzo Co. whiskies in our extensive collection here.

The Future of Tsunuki Distillery

Now that Japanese whisky has gained more recognition within Japan and around the world, Tsunuki Distillery can be considered the revival of the former Kagoshima distillery that once resided in Kyushu. Fully equipped with a 5,800-liter wash still, a 3,300-liter spirit still, and an aging cellar, Tsunuki will help expand Mars Whisky’s brand and provide more variety in whisky flavors to customers.

In celebration of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Tsunuki is expected to release an exclusive single-malt whisky for this historical event, which will represent an exciting and significant achievement of Hombo Shuzo Co.’s new distillery.

Despite all the setbacks that the company experienced in the past, it’s coming back full force and here to stay with not only its Shinshu Mars Distillery, but also with the Tsunuki Distillery. We’ll be patiently waiting for the exquisite and new drams that Mars Whisky will produce in the future.

Tsunuki Distillery in the middle of construction.
Emily