Get A Free Johnnie Walker Tasting Glass
The brand also held a series of unique blending events last month. Some bloggers received a package that contained several bottles of whisky, an empty bottle, a mixing flask, a glass funnel and a tasting glass to participate in the Johnnie Walker Black Label Centenary Journeyman Blending Event webcast on September 29. I got to have the in-person experience, taking part in a blending event held at the Montage Beverly Hills.
In my head I've always compared the difference between single malts and a blended scotch as the difference between an essential oil and a perfume. But while I've had the chance to dabble in blending essential oils to create a rudimentary scent (so much harder than it would seem), I hadn't, until recently had the chance to try my hand at blending whisky. But who could resist when the folks from Johnnie Walker fly in one of their master distillers, Andrew Ford, complete with swoonworthy Scottish accent and sit you down in front of an apothecary-like set of stoppered bottles?
Before the blending I talked with Ford a little about the challenges of predicting the future of whisky. He mentioned that the Johnnie Walker stocks span 7 million barrels which sounds like an awful lot. But because they Johnnie Walker Black is aged 12 years the challenges of guessing how much whisky you'll need 12 years in the future is no easy task. The whisky market has gone through a series of twists and turns in the past few years. First demand, spurred by the sudden rise in whisky drinking in Japan, India and other places, spiked to unprecedented levels. Then the global economic slowdown kicked in and pricey spirits took their licks along with other potent potables including champagne. Now what the future holds is anybody's guess. Another concern is climate change, not so much for the grains but with regards to water and the peat which grows in cooler and moist climates. The burning of peat is what gives some of the whiskies used in Johnnie Walker Black their distinctive smokiness.
Luckily I wasn't trying out to be a great nose so for me it was play to get just a hint of what goes into creating a blended whisky. A heavy dose of grain whisky as a base, touches of lowland malt for a hint of grassy freshness. A few generous splashes of Speyside malt for those sweet dried fruit notes. Casks that once held sherry do some of the magic in giving the whisky a more nuanced flavor. But it was the whiskies that were last that proved the most challenging to add. The island malt had a full nose of smoke, a sort of bacony richness that made me want to mix it with maple syrup and pour it on pancakes. The Islay malt at the far end was even smokier, a magnificently rich char. No wonder I always want to drink whisky by a roaring fire, it's got the woodsmoke blended right in.
Sadly for me, my attempts at whisky making were haphazard at best. Some of my companions had better luck but I think I'll let Andrew Ford and the other whisky masters at Johnnie Walker do the heavy lifting for me.