I’ve got a dirty little secret: I might be drawn to gimmick whisky. I was simply at the mercy of Talisker 57° North, which is distilled to 57% ABV because it’s distilled at latitude 57° North — and it absolutely slaps. So when my extremely generous Uncle-in-law (famous for sharing his Japanese whisky) was talking up Suntory World Whisky AO I was immediatley intrigued.

This — make no mistake about it — is a gimmick whisky. It’s a blend, but not like “we blended several regional scotches together.” No, Suntory’s AO blends 5 different whiskies from (as they describe it) “the world’s most prestigious whisky regions” namely, Ireland, Scotland, America, Canada, and Japan.

Imagine I suggested adding a splash of Knob Creek to your Lagavulin with a wink and a promise it worked. You might slap me. But that, taken to an extreme, is exactly what AO is. It’s a weird, truly worldly whisky. Here’s what I thought:

Suntory AO Whisky has an attractive bottle

Suntory World Whisky AO Review

Before you even taste it, it’s important to appreciate Suntory AO’s packaging. You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but damn if you can’t at least enjoy it. A beautiful, angular bottle with Japanese script adorning regal blue — give this as a gift and someone will just know you spent a little more than required.

Speaking of looks, Suntory AO pours a rich, amber caramel, looking several shades darker than your average Japanese dram. Take a sniff, and things get even weirder. For one split second, you’d think it was a scotch, but as the iodine-forward fumes clear, there’s a clear kick of bourbon and rye spice. Like — clear as day. Rather than smelling like a harmonious blend, AO kinda feels like a recieving line at a wedding, with each whisky lining up single file to introduce itself.

The smell is sweet and pleasent, and a little smokey, with hints of tropical fruit that surprised me. The weirdness party continues on the tongue. It’s a rich and well textured whisky, that’s pleasant to chew on. But when the taste clicked, my first thought was “wow this kinda tastes like Jim Beam.” I’ll give you three guesses where the American contribution came from. Then, the scotchy iodine and peat crept in, and I really had to wrap my head around whether everyone was playing nice in the sandbox together.

As for notes, it’s quite sweet with a solid amount of peat smoke, and the rye (combined with the high-for-Japanese-whisky 43% ABV) makes for a spicy kick at the back of your sip. Suntory AO finishes long and sweet-spicy, really tasting like Canada was the last to make an appearance.

All in all — I’m a bit at a loss for words. It’s weird. It’s not bad, but I can see why we’re not all drinking whiskies blended from global regions all the time. I think as an experiment and as a novelty, Suntory succeeded in creating something neat and ultimately enjoyable. But this gimmick whisky is likely a one and done for me (unless of course any other generous benefactors are willing to share it again). Regardless, if you’re looking for something new, Suntory AO is worth a slow sip or two.