WORLD BLEND “AO”: SUNTORY’S ANSWER TO WHISKY SHORTAGE IN JAPAN
By Siulan Law Mathews DipWSET
In response to the severe shortage of Japanese whiskies which led to a series of product suspensions, leading Japanese whisky producer Suntory Spirits released today a world whisky called “Ao”, blending liquids from Ireland, Scotland, USA, Canada and Japan.
Literally means blue to signify the oceans the various liquids have travelled, “Ao” is bottled at 43% abv and is priced at RRP 5,000 Yen (USD46).
The whisky is described as having a “complex and rich flavour”, and is recommended to be mixed in soda whisky cocktail Highball.
Japan’s whisky market has been booming in recent years, partly due to the popularity of Highball cocktail. The boom led to a severe shortage of Japanese made whiskies resulted in suspension of many whisky lines.
In January, Suntory Spirits announced suspension of higher-end Chita 35cl and Kakubin 45cl, as well as the mass market Shirokaku line in various volumes.
Last May, Suntory Spirits suspended two of their premium whisky products, Hakushu 12 Years and Hibiki 17 Years.
Another producer Kirin Brewery Co also suspended shipment of its 70cl Fuji-Sanroku Tarujuku Genshu 50 whisky.
The release of “Ao” indicates that Suntory Spirits, a market leader used to only use own crafted spirits in its blends, is joining the trend of world blends in the Japanese domestic market.
Many of these world expressions were labelled as Japanese whisky, despite having liquids from various parts of the part.
This is possible because of Japan's lack of regulations on whisky making. Producers 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.
The release of “Ao” could possibly trigger a wave of transparency on the origins of world blends in the Japanese market.
(the writer can be contacted at: SLawMathews@thewinechronicle.com)
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