The Hombo Shuzo Company produces wine, sake, brandy, beer and of course whisky at its Shinshu (sometimes Romanized as Shinsyu) facility up in the mountains of Nagano. The distillery is the highest in Japan, at an even greater elevation than Suntory’s forest distillery at Hakushu, Yamanashi. Currently, the range includes Iwai Tradition and Mars Maltage Cosmo, as well as Tsunagu, which is available for sale exclusively through Isetan. At the distillery, you can buy a limited edition Mars Blended Whisky.
The current distillery has much to live up to; the former Mars facility in Kagoshma, Kyushu created, amongst others, the epic Malt of Kagoshima 25-year.
The company will shortly open a new distillery, Tsunuki, in Kagoshima, on the site of its former distillery, delivering the first bottles around 2020.
In the tasting room, you can try the standard range of Iwai Tradition and Cosmo. Other whiskies that may be available for tasting include the award-winning Maltage 3+25, Revival 2011, Wine Cask Finish, Shinshu Rindo and several vintages of Lucky Cat.
The company also makes a range of delightful beers under the Minami Shinsyu Beer label. The range includes Golden Ale, Dunkelweizen, Seasonal Beer, and Apple Hop. I’d say the Dunkelweizen is the pick but they’re all worth searching for in craft beer shops.
You can make purchases of the company’s sake, wine and brandy at its website here but the whiskies are usually sold out.
How to get there: From Shinjuku, take a Limited Azusa train on the Chuo line to Okaya, then transfer to the Iida spur line to Miyada. From there, it’s a 5-km taxi ride.