Suntory ‘Ao’ Aims to Combat Japanese Whisky Shortage with International Blend

Suntory’s latest bottle blends fine whiskies from Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the USA.

Suntory Japan

In case you didn’t know, the popularity of high-end Japanese whisky has surged in recent years, causing a widespread shortage among leading distilleries. 

Take Japanese whisky powerhouse Suntory. Last summer, Smithsonian reported that the Osaka-based booze giant would pull a number of 12, 17 and 21-year-old single malts from store shelves as aging barrels dried up. 

Fortunately, Suntory has come up with a clever solution in a new expression dubbed “Ao”—a blend of five different whiskies from Scotland, Ireland, America, Canada and Japan.

The word means “blue” in Japanese and represents the water that connects the five source countries, according to a translated press release. The symbolism continues in the bottle’s five-sided design and blue label.

Suntory’s first foray into spirits outside of Japanese whisky is more than welcome, as the shortage has spawned an influx of counterfeit bottles in the U.S. 

Forbes has further details: 

Throughout 2018 the domestic whisky market was flooded by expressions comprising of imported whisky, which were labelled as Japanese whisky. This is possible due to Japan’s lack of regulations surrounding whisky making.

Companies are allowed to import whisky from other countries, add it to a barrel with a few drops of whisky made in Japan, and then bottle and label it as Japanese whisky.

Looking at the category’s growing popularity across the globe, many companies jumped on this loophole and created their own version of fake ‘Japanese whisky’.

Ao, which will be bottled at 43 percent ABV and retail for around $50, drops in Japan first. 

Whether Suntory’s whisky blend makes it stateside remains to be seen, but there will hopefully be enough to go around.

Fingers crossed.