Other Johnnie Walker reviews
For my 200th tasting, I had to tell you about my exceptional tasting of JOHNNIE WALKER's CELEBRATORY BLEND (released for the 200th anniversary of the brand).
So here I am, just out of the ABERFELDY-DEWAR'S distillery (where I learned that the two big competitors of the Scottish blend have been together for more than 70 years - see here the tasting if you want to know more about it-), I go back to Brad Peat and see that I have a message in my "timemail" box.
For your information, I remind you that my Brad Peat van, which accompanies me in all my tastings, has been equipped for some time with a temporal convector (which I got from a crazy know-it-all, but that's another story, no Zeus!) which also allows me to go through the years and taste whiskies in time (and afterwards they say that alcohol doesn't do any damage!). Thanks to him I was able to taste the Sassenach Spirit (here if you're interested) with James Fraser's father (alias Sam Heugan) or the Johnnie Walker Sweet Peat (here if you're interested) with Alexander Walker II (you remember the big eyebrows!).
In fact, the message came from him! He has read my articles and wants me to taste one of his creations.
You should know, by the way, to make the link with the CELEBRATORY BLEND, Jim Beveridge (Johnnie Walker's master blender) wanted to revive the initial recipe of the "Old Highland Whisky", the first blend created by the brand and the creator's son (I named Alexander Walker II).
So, that's all it takes for me to fill up the tank of my single malt combi and go back in time to 1865, the date when he created this famous blend. Once I have entered the date into Brad Peat's time circuit, I am launched at 80 mph on a long straight line (I remind you that this is a combi and that 80 mph starts to require him to go and find his resources!).
A flash and here I am again in the second half of the 19th century in the town of KILMARNOCK south of Glasgow (and yes in the LOWLANDS).
Now that I know the place a bit, I go directly to the centre of the village in front of the small grocery shop flanked by the big letters JOHN WALKER!
When I ring the door bell and enter the shop, I read a certain astonishment on Alexander Walker's face!
He says to me "but how is it possible that I sent you the message (I keep to myself the way he could have done it) only 1 hour ago and you are already here! ". I explain to him that when it is a question of tasting a whisky I always answer present.
Here I am at the counter tasting a Blend (with a capital B because it's almost the first one ever made!) in company of Sir Alexander Walker II (I already told you but I have the impression that in the whisky world of the end of the 19th century all the creators of whisky firms are called John and that their sons are called Alexander - see my last tasting) What a memory.
Anyway a big moment but, as I didn't really know what was in it and I trust Johnnie Walker's master blender (who says he started from a similar recipe), I'll tell you about the CELEBRATORY BLEND.
Jim Beveridge's team at JOHNNIE WALKER, in this day and age (i.e. 200 years later) wanted to produce a version that was a little stronger than the ones usually produced by the brand. Indeed, almost all the blends of the brand have an alcohol content between 40% (mostly) and 43% by volume (for the GREEN LABEL for example). The one we are tasting today is more in the Cask-Strength range with a 51% alcohol content by volume. The team thus wanted to play the authentic card.
We clearly don't know the sources of supply that made this blend possible, nevertheless the brand announces that it was made from whiskies coming from distilleries in activity 200 years ago. This is quite convenient when you know the range offered by DIAGEO (which has no less than 30 distilleries in reserve). However, if you take a closer look, you'll realise that there is still a lot of choice with distilleries opened between 1793 and 1860. There are peaty (Caol Ila, Lagavullin, Port Ellen, Talisker and Brora), fruity (Cardhu, Benrinnes, Teaninich, Singleton and Mortlach), woody (Clynelish, Dailuaine, Oban -the oldest- and Royal Lochnagar) or rather sweet (Glenkinchie and Linkwood). In short, there is a lot to do, although I think that the distillates of the closed distilleries can be easily removed, and are rather reserved for the Blue Label 200th anniversary version.
So what is this blend like, with its deep golden colour almost turning to a light brown?
When approaching the glass, the nose is not attacked at all but will rather feel a thick and buttery vanilla whisky. A biscuit!
When the nose enters the glass for the first time it detects heat. The aromas are carried towards exotic fruits (with a smell of fleshy pineapple) but the nose will clearly detect a first flight of spices (which will accompany us throughout the tasting). Nevertheless, it remains sweet despite its title.
On the second pass, the warmth remains but it will be closer to a "sherry" aroma with a hint of red fruit but with the spices still present. Without taking the nose out of the glass, the persistence of the latter will make the aromas turn towards light citrus.
The third passage will be more on a pleasant vanilla-spice mix with a saline touch at the end.
On the nose it is difficult to detect any peaty aroma. On the other hand, the sweet smell of smoke reveals itself more in the palm of the hand. There is peat (Peatdream's word)!
The entry in the mouth will be different. Quite discreet on the nose, this blend turns out to be much more present and fleshy with spices (we knew that) but also nuts and a great warmth. The peppery spices will stay on the tongue for a long time.
The rest of the wine is going to be around the tongue. It's a rush in the mouth, sweet white fruits, citrus fruits. After a few seconds, a hint of peat makes a furtive passage. The tasting ends with the victory of the spices in the form of a ginger pie. I don't know if there is such a thing, but imagine ginger on a moist cake.
The finish is long. It is warm with more lemony and slightly salty aromas.
The addition of water will bring out the citrus side of the nose and even make it easier to detect the peat.
On the other hand, in the mouth, I find that it breaks it up a little too much for my taste by exacerbating its sweetness. It almost brings out a hint of harshness.
It's a nice trip for a blend that shows quite a bit of complexity (at less than €100).
The clock is ticking in Walker's Kilmarnock Whisky shop and I shouldn't miss the time gap that will bring me back to our days for new tastings.
I greet my host and take leave of him. I don't forget to take a bottle of single malt from a local distillery (whisky that could make your hair grow backwards these days) to supply my van.
Another great adventure for the 200th PEATDREAM!