Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Suntory Blast From the Past: Za

Apparently the first Suntory whisky created by now chief blender Seiichi Koshimizu, "Za" (座) is an interesting whisky in terms of its historical significance. Those with extensive experience in tasting various Suntory whiskies will feel that this blend is at once quite familiar but also, in a sense, distant, something possibly known and then forgotten. This whisky's nose has the usual sandalwood aroma you find in many Japanese whiskies, not only from Suntory, but Nikka as well; this is brought on by the use of cedarwood. When someone asks me to name a characteristic that is largely unique to Nikka and Suntory Japanese whiskies, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the persistent sandalwood aroma.

As far as the palate goes, this is where Suntory Za disappoints, and is likely the main reason why this whisky failed. It's really flat and uninteresting. However, for what this whisky is, the finish is decent; it has a pleasant sweet and woody aftertaste that lingers quite nicely. Unfortunately, Japanese whiskies from Suntory and Nikka aren't really complex at all, and this whisky does its best to support the notion that Japanese whisky makers have never been much into complexity. Of course, simplicity in design is well-ingrained in Japanese culture, so this shouldn't be surprising. I don't mean this in a critical way; it's just that as far as food and drink go, it tends to leave me feeling underwhelmed.

As for the bottle and label design, there's a Japanese word that sums it up nicely... ダサい (dasai).

I'd say that if anything sums up this whisky in a positive way, it's that Suntory Za is a nice experiment in cedarwood use, developing that smooth-as-silk, Japanese-style flavor profile fans of Japanese whisky have come to know and love. And, as its name suggests, sit back with this one in a comfortable chair with the lights dimmed dramatically and maybe some mood music in the background.

Original product release announcement from Suntory

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