Review: Tsunuki Single Malt Japanese Whisky Limited of Minami-satsuma City

The naming on this one is a mouthful. Tsunuki Single Malt Japanese Whisky Limited of Minami-satsuma City. It’s one of the first single malt whiskies released out of Mars Whisky’s Tsunuki Distillery, which came online in November 2016. 

Given the distillery specs and its location in the more temperate Kagoshima prefecture, Mars has already come out and said that Tsunuki’s whiskies will be bolder and meatier than their Shinshu Distillery releases out of Nagano. Spoiler: they’re not kidding!

Timing-wise, the release of this bottle sits after April 2020’s Single Malt Tsunuki The First but before 2021’s Single Malt Tsunuki Peated. There have also been a few single cask releases like #5114 for LMDW, and the axed Tsunuki Distillery Festival 2020 bottles, #5134 and #T333.

This wasn’t exactly a standard release though. Instead, 1500 bottles of this were released late last year only via the Furusato Nozei tax scheme, where redirecting a portion of your Japanese residency tax away from your place of residence to some other locale earns you kickbacks. So the local government of Minami-satsuma City, the location of the Tsunuki Distillery, worked with the distillery for this release.

Getting to the bottle, it’s a vatting of casks that were distilled in 2017. It was just bottled in November 2020. At 3.5ppm and 50% abv, the peat level basically matches that of The First, but the abv matches The Peated. This one is also a primarily Bourbon barrel release.

With apologies and a kampai to my fellow residents of Tokyo’s Chuo-ku, let’s crack this one open and get involved.

Review: Tsunuki Single Malt Japanese Whisky Limited of Minami-satsuma City

Nose: A pile of wet mulch, malt, and wood chips. Dried banana, honeydew melon, green apple. A bit of water brings out a dessert platter of vanilla wafers, red velvet cake and ginger snap cookies

Palate: Intense oak and young alcohol for the age, nearly coaxing over the malt and sun-kissed tropical fruits that barely show themselves. You’ll need to dig to find hints of honey, cacao and red apple. Water brought out bitter dark chocolate.

Finish: Handful of nuts, more oak wood. Oriental spices and white pepper wrap things up.

Score: B-

Price paid: Apart from the 2000 yen deductible for participation in the Furusato Nozei program, this bottle was effectively free.

Mars is being open about the fact that Tsunuki is going to be a thicker, more powerful malt than Shinshu. Water does help a bit, but at three years things still have quite rough edges. This could do with some proper time in the cask to calm things down. The components of a nice whisky are certainly there though. I’m waiting.

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