I admit that I am still learning about Scotch Whisky, learning a bit through my WSET training. I was glad to be invited to attend a Johnnie Walker Whisky Master Class at Hopscotch. Our “teacher” was Mr. Michael “Mike” Nicholson, a Distiller, who has worked at La Cavulin and 4 other distilleries.
Mike started off telling us about Johnnie Walker, an interesting man, born in 1805. In 1820 he worked in a grocers shop at age 15 where he started to mix teas and malt whisky. He became very adept at blending whiskys to produce a consistent flavour. His son Alexander took over the business, and I think was a very astute businessman. In 1876 he had their whisky put in square bottles so you could ship more, and in 1880 he opened an office in London. Alexander’s grandsons, Alexander and George took over the business, and continued to expand the business, and take over other distilleries like Cardhu in 1893. More details about the Johnnie Walker legacy are on Wikipedia.
The Whisky Tasting
This is the world’s best selling whisky, with it being very popular with the younger crowd. It has some sweetness and spice on the nose. As a tip for this whisky and whisky in general is to add a few drops of water so taht the alcohol smell is subdued and you can smell the other notes in the whisky. For me there was some peak and oak. Sweetness on the start, some citrus and a bit of spice at the back of the throat. Long finish. This was not bad, but better are to come.
Black Label is made from 12 year old whisky. It has sweet molasses, some smoke, dark fruit and vanilla on the nose. Some charcoal and smokiness on the palate. Light pepperiness on the finish along with caramel flavour. I really liked this whisky and could see myself buying it.
This whisky had a sweeter nose, from being aged in American oak casks (giving vanilla and coconut aromas). Light body, vanilla, citrus and quite spicy in your mouth. You get charcoal/peat on the finish. Mike recommends trying this whisky with a squre of dark chocolate, but if you do, chill the whisky first and do not add water to it. If the whisky is very cold you will get the flavour being released on your tongue together with the chocolate. Give it a try.
At the platinum level we are tasting 18 year old blended whisky. This is a new blend for Johnnie Walker. I really enjoyed sniffing this whisky. It had raisin, fruit cake, caramel and light peaty/smoky notes. Medium body with chocolate and peat. Big, fat and rich, but also smooth, with a long finish. Another whisky I quite enjoyed.
At the top of our tasting list was the Blue Label whisky at $250/bottle. It is a blend of ancient and rare whiskys. Some of the distilleries that make this blend no longer exist. A very nice nose that smells smooth and sweet, with raisins and vanilla. As these whiskys are very old, do NOT add water as they are quite fragile. This whisky has a light body, smooth, spicy, complex in flavour. A treat.
Thank you to the Hopscotch Festival for providing me with a ticket to this event and getting me on my way to a whisky education.