The Johnnie Walker brand has become somewhat of a household name when it comes to Blended Scotch Whisky. Personally, I’ve had a long-term relationship with Johnnie Walker Black Label that started back in college (pre-U). It wasn’t till I started working that I was exposed to the more premium labels such as the Gold Label Reserve, Platinum Label and of course, the revered Blue Label. Not to mention the recent reintroduction of the Johnnie Walker Green Label, a blended malt whisky. Of course, the infamous Red Label did make a few appearances in some of my drunken, hazy nights.
Master Blender Jim Beveridge has been creating these masterpieces for over four decades, and continues to find ways to excite and intrigue whisky-drinkers. Most recently, the brand has done this through a newly-introduced series called the Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch — a limited edition series that aims to highlight the innovation of the blending team led by Beveridge himself, whilst allowing the team a chance to be experimental with their flavours.
The first release under this series to make it to our shores is the Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish (yes, quite a mouthful!).
It seems the Blender’s Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish was created after vetting through over 200 whisky samples. The selected whiskies are then aged in first-fill Bourbon casks, and finished with 6 months in former Rye casks, which really contributes a distinct ‘American whiskey’ flavour that reminds me very much of Bourbon (which I love!).
What I’ve learned to love more about whisky, especially in the past 2-3 years (thanks to a certain someone), is its versatility in a cocktail. While there are many whiskies that don’t do well in cocktails, I’ve learnt to appreciate blends that not only shine on the rocks, but have standout flavours that work well in cocktails — especially classic ones.
The Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Bourbon Cask and Rye Finish is one of them. A friend got the bartender to use it in a Manhattan, and it turned out beautifully! I think its rich, honeyed notes played a big role in that, which I suppose is the result of the Bourbon Cask and Rye Finish.
For its launch event in Malaysia, we were privileged to be able to make our own cocktails (with the help of some experts of course), which really helped showcase how this little blend works so well in cocktails, even when used with some of our local flavours like Gula Melaka.
I’m curious to see what else makes it to our shores from the Blenders’ Batch series. From articles on the internet, there are two other variants available in other markets: the Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish, which was apparently the first release under the series; and the Blenders’ Batch Triple Grain American Oak, which may only be available in the US if I’m reading correctly. By the sounds of it, both blends are heavily influenced by American whiskies (Bourbon and Rye), but strive to maintain the main characteristics of Johnnie Walker Scotch.
I think this blend would do really well in cocktail bars. But at the same time, because it comes in limited supply, it might be tougher to maintain the expectations of the consumers.
Whatever it is, you’ve got a fan in me so far. Let’s keep ’em coming, JW!