An interesting new Japanese whisky release looks to be emerging from spirits giant Beam-Suntory. Suntory Ao World Whisky, set for release this coming April, is a unique blended whisky that takes advantage of the enormous reach of the Suntory portfolio. Rather than combining, say, different Scotch whiskies to create a consistent blend, this bottling blends whiskies from all five major whisk(e)y-producing regions—Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Canada, and Japan—to create a new expression that’s more or less unlike anything else on the market.
A press release—Google-translated from the Japanese—doesn’t make it clear which specific whiskies are in this blend, but Suntory’s portfolio (the company’s American branch is known as Beam-Suntory) is wide-ranging, including brands like Laphroaig, Bowmore, Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Old Overholt, Canadian Club, Kilbeggan, and many others. The whiskies are all from Suntory- or Beam-Suntory-owned distilleries, and are reportedly hand-selected by Suntory’s chief blender, Shinji Fuwa.
Suntory Ao World Whisky (image via Beam Suntory)
The blend will come in a symbolic five-sided bottle with a striking ocean-blue label; “Ao” is Japanese for “blue,” a reference to the oceans separating the five whisky-making regions.
2018 was a rocky year for the relatively loosely-regulated Japanese whisky industry, according to Forbes, as the domestic market was flooded with expressions containing mostly imported whisky, which by law can be labeled “Japanese” as long as they contain a small amount of Japanese distillate.
The tasting notes from the press release are vague, noting only that this expression is sweet and mellow but also smoky. It’s bottled at 43% ABV. Suntory Ao World Whisky hits Japanese shelves April 16 at a suggested retail price 5000 yen, or around $45 USD. There’s no word yet on when it might become available in the US.