Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Release - Johnnie Walker Blue Label 'The Casks Edition'

As we reported in our Inbox bulletin of 27th July, Johnnie Walker the famous blended whisky brand have launched a limited edition cask strength version of their Blue Label expression.  Named Blue Label 'The Casks Edition', this new whisky has been blended from a small selection of their finest casks that were hand picked by Johnnie Walker's Master Blender Jim Beveridge.

He comments, “Only one in ten thousand of our casks have sufficient character for Blue Label and in creating this special edition we really wanted to showcase the incredible flavours that come from the casks themselves”.

The Johnnie Walker brand is owned by drinks giant Diageo, and is named after Johnnie Walker, a man who owned a small grocery shop in the Ayrshire town of Kilmarnock in Scotland in the 1820s. Back then, nearly all whisky sold commercially was a blend. Having first learnt to blend different teas together, Johnnie Walker used his skills to create a commercially successful whisky blend and the rest is history, as they say.

In the early days his whisky was made with local clients in mind and was sold in small quantities. The success of the brand really took off during Victorian times when it was exported around the British Empire. As the Empire expanded, more people enjoyed the range and brand has never looked back. This is shown in the fact that Johnnie Walker whiskies were already exported to 120 countries before Coca Cola had left America in the 1920s.

First launched in 1991, no age is stated on the Blue Label but the youngest whisky included is rumoured to be around the 28 years old mark, with some of the whisky coming from rare or closed distilleries such as Brora. The blend contains over 20 rare single malts and superior grain whiskies.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep coppery gold. On the nose vanilla, butterscotch, light brown sugar and deep citrus notes (making me think of candied oranges). There is plenty of oak too and a little smoke in the background. The overall impression is intense yet mellow.

All the aromas can be found on the palate, which displays the power and delivery of a cask strength whisky (55.8% ABV in this case). In addition to vanilla, butterscotch and orange citrus there is a biscuity flavour carrying with it a trace of something savoury, slightly earthy.

The oak spices and grains make a marked early impression, staying the course and carrying a fine grained quality. The texture of this whisky also makes it pleasant to hold in the mouth, as you feel the oak spices develop and bittersweet orange flavours combine on the finish.

What's the verdict?
It is a rare treat to enjoy such an iconic whisky as Blue Label at its natural bottled strength. The whisky is quite mouth cleansing and if you find it a little too astringent then our recommendation is to try a measure with a dash of water. We found this calms the oak and spices whilst still leaving plenty of ‘grip’ to the whisky. Overall it makes for a rounder and slightly sweeter drinking experience.

With a recommended retail price of $300 USD for a one litre bottle this also looks to be good value when compared to the standard Blue Label release which is bottled at 40% ABV and retails for approximately $180-190 USD/£140-150.

3 comments:

Gintaras said...

I suppose if you prefer Blends. My question is -- if you have sampled the finest casks, why not retain them as single malts?

Whisky For Everyone said...

Hi Gintaras - thanks for your comment. That is a good question ... coincidentally I was talking with Maureen Robinson, who is a Master Blender at Diageo alongside Jim Beveridge, at an event yesterday about this very subject.

Her answer was interesting and made the point that each of their 28 malt distilleries is operated primarily to produce whisky for their vast array/portfolio of blends. Only a small proportion is released as single malt with their 'classic malts', such as Lagavulin and Talisker, having a slightly higher proportion to meet their popularity.

She explained that part of her (and Jim's) job is to identify casks of extreme superior quality that either a) help to create the desired flavour profile in their limited edition premium blends, such as this Blue Label 'Casks Edition' or b) stand alone as a single malt and be put forward for Diageo's annual Special Release programme.

I hope that helps and thanks again - Matt @WFE

Anonymous said...

Another answer to Gintaras is that blended whisky outsells single malt by an order of magnitude.