Does the name Suntory sound familiar? If so, you may remember the brand from Bill Murray’s film “Lost in Translation.” If you didn’t see “Lost in Translation,” the name could be familiar simply because Suntory is a major booze giant in Japan – and they just dug deep into their pockets to place a winning bid on Beam Inc. to the tune of $16 billion.
However, when they weren’t busy shelling out insane amounts of cash, Suntory was working on introducing a high-end Japanese rice vodka called Ao. However, according to Suntory America’s chief executive Toshi Kumakura, vodka isn’t even a very popular spirit in Japan. So why are they making it? So they can sell it in the U.S., of course. Kumakura told MarketWatch that their plan is to create buzz in the United States, make a push with bartenders, and then bring Ao back to Japan where people will hopefully pay a little more attention to them.
The name “Ao” means blue in Japanese, but Suntory says it is also used to describe many shades of green in nature and traditional culture; landscapes of paddy fields where Japanese rice is grown are often termed Ao. And no, the vodka is not blue – it’s quite clear.
Rice is the core of Ao’s spirit and to retain its distinctive character, they use a proprietary distillation method based on small pot stills. They blend in “pristine” water and to achieve the perfect crystalline clarity, they use a bamboo based filtration process.
Ao says their product is a “remarkably smooth vodka, with clean, crisp flavors and subtle rice notes.” They also say it is best served neat on ice, with a splash of tonic, or in a martini. It’s definitely considered to be more of a sipping vodka and not really a mixing one.
MarketWatch had the opportunity to try Ao rice vodka and said it has to be one of the cleanest vodkas they have ever tried without any hint of alcoholic harshness. They said the rice gives the vodka a subtle sweetness and that their only complaint is that it goes down a little too easy. It is literally a vodka that drinks like water, “but in the best possible sense.” Sounds great to us.
You have our attention, Suntory. How about a bottle of Ao so we can test this magical creation for ourselves?