Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review - John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2017 Edition

The 2017 Edition is the fourth bottling in the Private Collection range from John Walker & Sons, the super premium branch of the popular Johnnie Walker Scotch brand.  This new expression is entitled 'Mastery of Oak' and investigates how wood character and combinations of casking can influence whisky.  The Private Collection is created by Jim Beveridge, the Master Blender for Johnnie Walker, and his blending team at Diageo. The series was launched in 2014 and the three previous expressions have concentrated on smoky, rich fruit and light honeyed characteristics respectively. 

The 'Mastery of Oak' is constructed from three specially created vattings - one of mostly single grain with a small percentage of single malt that was matured in active American oak casks, one of mostly well aged single malts with a small pocket of single grain stock that was matured in re-fill casks, and one that was taken from a selection of American oak and European oak casks that came from within Diageo's experimental maturation programme.  These were then blended together in differing percentages to produce the final whisky. 

"Within the Private Collection we can create experiments from a blank canvas.  The series is a journey of flavour styles and the blending heritage and philosophy of John Walker & Sons".
Dr. Jim Beveridge, speaking at the 2017 Edition launch event.

The John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2017 Edition is bottled at 46.8% ABV and there are 5,588 bottles. These will be available in specialist whisky retailers and global travel retail worldwide. The recommended retail price is £550 per bottle.

Our tasting notes 
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is vibrant and fresh with a lovely set of sweet and spicy aromas. There is plenty of honey, plus further aromas of vanilla and caramelised sultanas. The wood spices are lovely reminiscent of cinnamon, all-spice and freshly sawn oak. Late hints of stewed apples, milk chocolate and dried mango add depth.

On the palate this whisky is warming, rounded and rich. There are early notes of the wood spices from the nose (think of baking spices, cinnamon and fresh saw dust with a hint of clove) and these mellow with time. This allows the fruity and sweet elements to come through and they compliment the wood spices superbly. There are notes of fresh pear, red apple skin, sultanas, candied orange peel and a hint of dried mango. They are supported by further notes of honey, butterscotch and milk chocolate.  The honeyed characteristic in particular seems to increase over time. Final hints of leather and gingerbread add a pleasant savoury edge and further complexity.

The finish is dry and short, especially once the sweet and fruity elements have faded. This is deliberate according to Jim Beveridge and gives the whisky a lovely crisp, spicy and almost cooling feel. This also allows the savoury notes from the back end of the palate to shine through.

What's the verdict?
The 2017 Edition of the Private Collection is a superb whisky and one that should incredible balance and complexity. The intricate make up of the blend gives the whisky a wonderful flavour profile and depth, without being too powerful or woody.

The addition of water highlights this - the spices are softened but remain to hold their own, while the sweet notes become very fudgey and delicate. Of the whiskies that we have sampled in the series this fourth expression is our favourite and leaves us asking which direction the fifth edition will take us in.

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