Master Class: Johnnie Walker
April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
I had the pleasure of attending a Johnnie Walker Master Class which was led by Diageo’s Master of Whisky, John Heffernan. He was great – very entertaining & quickly put everyone at ease (or was that all of the whisky we were tasting?). John proudly wore a kilt and got you excited to ride the Johnnie Walker journey, starting us off with this video and a little story about the filming process…
As you can see, there is no place for a cut so this needed to be performed in one clean take. Apparently, during the 1st two days of shooting the actor couldn’t get the timing just right with the script and the props. On the second night, tired and probably feeling a little fed-up, the crew went out for drinks. One drink turned into two, two turned into three … and so on. The next morning, feeling a little hungover, everyone came together and the actor nailed it on the first take. Surely this isn’t the kind of story you share with your 6 year old niece… “And the moral of this story is…?“
On the menu that evening was Johnnie Walker Black, Green, Gold & Blue (no Red) as well as two single malts that, in addition to their own bottlings, are used in some of the Johnnie Walker blends. Cardhu 12yr – a delightfully pure and easy single-malt whiskey that was recently re-released back into the US market. I love this scotch for it’s uncomplicated, lightly sweet flavor and perfect finish which makes it a great whiskey for the novice, master and everyone in between. The other single malt we tasted was Talisker – from the Talisker Distillery, which I find interesting to note is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye. This particular scotch is so briny and salty (much like it’s surrounding terrain), I totally understood why John suggested adding a drop of this whisky to oysters on the 1/2 shell or your adding “a little more than a splash” to your next bloody mary … deeeelish.
During the tasting, John said something interesting about the Johnnie Walker Labels that I thought I’d share with you. For him, he finds that the flavor of the blends somewhat match the colors of their labels. For example, Johnnie Walker Black has strong notes of pepper & smoke. Johnnie Walker Green has hints of pine, fresh-cut hay, and earth. JW Gold tastes like toffee, almond and cream. Johnnie Walker Red (which we didn’t taste that day) reminds him of cinnamon – specifically the Red Hot Candies. When you suck on one for a minute and then take it out of your mouth, on your next inhale you get that zing inside your mouth – that, he said, has a similar mouth-feel for him as the JW Red. I really enjoy this easy-to-remember tip. I find that it helps me visualize the flavors which can make for a much faster decision at the bar or at the store!
Lastly, John mentioned that even though the Johnnie Walker Blue label is the most expensive of the JW blends, doesn’t me an that it [should] default as everyone’s favorite. In fact, Johnnie Walker’s Master Distiller (who, lets face it, could have any scotch he’d like) likes Johnnie Walker Red the best! Just goes to show that there’s no right or wrong answer to the question, “What is the best whisk(e)y” – it’s a matter of personal opinion – just drink what you like!
(this blog post first appeared on TUESDAY, APRIL 12th at WhiskyWoman’s original home: http://whiskywoman.blogspot.com/)