Liquid History

Liquid History

News | 04 Mar 2011 | Issue 94

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As every reader of Whisky Magazine will know, the most popular Scotch whisky in the world is Johnnie Walker. As a standard blend it tends to be over-looked by aficionados, though the 12 Years Old Black Label and its newly-released sib-ling the non-age Double Black command respect.

These are relatively mass-mar-ket products though and increasingly the distilling industry is looking for premium and super-premium styles. Johnnie Walker is no exception, and as prices rise, the range continues with Blue Label, Blue Label King George V Edition and occasional special releases, despite coming from the giant Diageo, every so often they let their blenders follow their highly-trained noses.

The latest result is The John Walker. In hand-blown Baccarat crystal, The John Walker will be available exclusively in Harrods (£2,000). You might also see it in some Duty Free outlets, in the Coburg Bar at London’s Connaught Hotel and other salubrious watering holes.

Master blender Dr Jim Beveridge describes the new product as “a blend of controlled power and richness”. He makes The John Walker in batches of 330 bottles from distilleries operating when the original John Walker was still alive. Of course, some of these are now lost forever, so this represents an unrepeatable piece of liquid history. Included here are whiskies from Glen Albyn (closed 1983; now demolished) and Cambus (closed 1993).

Once blended, the whisky is married in special casks. Jim won’t be drawn on exactly how long, simply saying: “the marry-ing time is carefully monitored to ensure the flavour from the wood is carefully balanced with the other blend characteristics; this is achieved normally over a period of several months.”

The casks themselves are of interest. The oak used comes from a vat made from European oak which was known to be more than100 years old. The vat was dismantled and the oak rebuilt into hogsheads. The wood was given a light toast, Beveridge explained: “The latent flavour potential which had been dormant throughout the wood’s life as a vat was released. The flavours were ideal for marrying this special blend.”
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