Suntory World Whisky AO
I highly recommend building relationships and networks with store owners and managers. As I perused the shelves and the "behind the counter lineup" at my favorite grocery story, I struck up a conversation with the department manager - Jason - to see what was new and interesting. He shared with me that the newly added item this week was Suntory World Whisky AO. As I perused the box and the interesting story, I quickly decided that this was one to add to my cart for checkout.
It's a Small, Small World In my youth, the first company I worked for was an insurance company that was part of the American Brands conglomerate. In addition to life insurance, they owned Titleist golf products, American Brands cigarettes, Jim Beam, and several home improvement and office equipment companies. Based on the cigarettes, whiskey, and golf, I used to lovingly refer to it as "Vice Incorporated". Fast forward to 2014, and some may forget that Beam is actually part of the BeamSuntory group, based in Japan, that owns a world-wide whiskey lineup. BeamSuntory owns several beer and wine brands in addition to spirits. Japanese whiskeys include Hibiki, Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Kakubin. In addition, the powerhouse includes bourbons from Jim Beam and Maker's Mark, scotches from Macallan, Canadian whiskey from Canadian Club, and Irish whiskey from Tycronnell and Connemara. A blended whiskey from five corners of the globe was the inspiration for this world whiskey for Master Blender Shinji Fukuy.
The Tasting Suntory World Whiskey AO comes in a 700 ml square bottle, labeled on the corner. With distilleries across the globe, this is a blend using whisky from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Japan, and the United States. The exact blending percentages are not disclosed, but do feel they come to light in the tasting. The calligraphy on the label is from Tansetsu Ogino to represent the global whiskeys used in the blend. The "AO" in the name is derived from Japanese origin and means "blue" to represent the oceans that connect these distilleries and whiskies together. There is no age statement and the finished product is bottled at 86 proof. Eye: Light straw. Nose: Grassy and slightly smokey notes from the lighter whiskeys used with gentle whiffs of vanilla and caramel along with some light tropical fruits (I pick up pineapple, mango, and papaya). The nose is pleasant, but definitely leans towards the scotch, Irish, and Japanese whiskeys. Palate: Earthy peated notes from the Scotch and grassy notes from the Irish whiskeys hit first and the overall mouthfeel is very light. A second sip picks up some sweeter notes coming from the bourbon and Canadian whiskey. Overall, pleasant, though not overwhelming. Finish: Medium. Smoke and grassy notes continue, along with some sweeter elements and some very light peppercorn spice. Overall, this pretty subdued. Overall: MSRP on this is $55 and it does make an interesting pour with a, similar, interesting backstory. If you were hoping for really good scotch or bourbon or any of the other whiskeys used, you're likely to be disappointed. I cracked this bottle with my wife, daughter, and son-in-law. He captured it, perhaps most elegantly, with the phrase "It's like five singers all trying to out-sing the other." That's not a bad review. I do feel that that bourbon and Canadian whiskeys are singing "top tenor" to the "sopranos" from the Japanese, Irish, and Scotch whiskey. Overall, this is a whiskey with an interesting backstory, especially since BeamSuntory has access to a worldwide list of distilleries. However, there's no indication of the blending percentages, and it does feel like this skews towards the lighter end of the spectrum. If you were looking for great bourbon or Canadian whiskey, you're going to be disappointed. If you're newer to scotch or Irish whiskeys, and are coming from heartier North American whiskeys, this might be a good entry. This definitely felt light, and the lower-proof lends towards that aspect. If you're looking to taste the world, in a single pour, and share a story or two, this might be your bottle.