Review: Suntory World Whisky Ao

You’ve probably heard of it by now, and maybe even already tried it. Suntory World Whisky Ao is a blend of whiskies from the five major whisky countries of the world: Scotland, Ireland, Canada, USA, and Japan. Other countries like Taiwan are pushing hard to expand this list, but that’s a different discussion.

These kind of world blend whiskies aren’t exactly a new concept. In fact, they’ve even been done here in Japan before. Now it’s Suntory’s turn to take advantage of their global reach… again. The company says Ao is the first ever blend of whiskies from the five major countries all owned by one firm.

And those seven distilleries are (thanks to David for the list in English):

  • Ardmore (Scotland)
  • Glen Garioch (Scotland)
  • Cooley (Ireland)
  • Alberta (Canada)
  • Jim Beam (USA)
  • Yamazaki (Japan)
  • Hakushu (Japan)

We don’t have any more official details beyond the above, like exactly which whiskies from those distilleries are used, their maturities, or even a ratio.

That Suntory’s flagship new product of 2019 is mostly(?) a blend of imported whiskies tells you a lot about how tough things have gotten for Japanese whisky. And we all know that many Japanese whiskies contain whisky from distilleries not in Japan. But rather than try to hide it, Suntory is leaning in, and telling us all about it. Does it work?

Once again, thanks goes to Mel for providing the sample for today’s review!

Review: Suntory World Whisky Ao

Nose: Super fruity with orange peel, plenty of banana and tropical vanilla cream. Only slightly woody, I’d say.

Palate: A touch of spiciness, but overall smooth and subdued with a touch of smoke. An almost too easy mouthful.

Finish: Woody vanilla, but don’t look for any smoke since this drops off a cliff almost immediately.

Score: B-

Price paid: None, this was a sample. The official price is 5000 yen before tax. 43% abv.

Though smooth and very easy to handle, I’ve dinged Ao slightly because I was hoping for a bit more depth and complexity. Suntory should continue experimenting!

Also, just an aside, but the Ao bottle really reminds me of 2013’s Kakubin Premium.


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