Monday, October 25, 2021

Review / Johnnie Walker Blue Label 'Ghost & Rare' Pittyvaich

This whisky is the fourth bottling in the Blue Label Ghost & Rare series from Johnnie Walker. The best selling Scotch whisky brand created the limited edition series to highlight old and rare whiskies from closed distilleries. This new release focuses on the 'ghost' Speyside distillery of Pittyvaich, which only operated from 1974 to 1993 and was located in Dufftown. The whisky's creator is Dr. Jim Beveridge OBE, the Master Blender for Johnnie Walker, and features two other 'ghost' closed distilleries of Carsebridge and Port Dundas. Other rare whiskies included come from the Highland and Speyside distilleries of Auchroisk, Cragganmore, Mannochmore, Royal Lochnagar and Strathmill.

The Johnnie Walker range of blends is recognisable the world over and is the biggest selling of any Scotch brand. It has become a cultural icon and grown since John Walker founded it from his grocery shop in Kilmarnock in 1820. Johnnie Walker has just celebrated its 200th anniversary as a result. The Blue Label is a relatively recent addition to the range and first appeared in 1992. The combination of old and rare whiskies has seen the Blue Label become a prized whisky and status symbol amongst consumers. It has also spawned numerous side collections of limited editions, including this annual Ghost & Rare series that launched in 2017.

"Pittyvaich may only have thrived for a short period, but the whisky has something unmistakable. Its distinct character has always intrigued us and fired our imagination to create something really special that would pay tribute to the whisky makers of this Speyside distillery." 
Dr. Jim Beveridge OBE. 
The Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare Pittyvaich follows previous bottlings focussing on Brora in 2017, Port Ellen in 2018 and Glenury Royal in 2019. It is released at 43.8% ABV and will be available globally via specialist whisky and luxury retailers from November. A bottle will cost £275/ $380 US.
Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow with a tint of amber and the nose is packed with sweet and fruity aromas. First to rise are toffee and butterscotch, then a blob of honey and hint of vanilla. Then comes the fruit - think of stewed apple and poached pear especially with a pinch of cinnamon and white pepper. A late suggestion of tinned peach and cocoa powder add further intrigue.

On the palate this whisky feels luxurious and velvety. Notes of fairground toffee apples and poached pear topped with butterscotch sauce and a vanilla pod lead the way. Underneath of more subtle notes of heather honey, milk chocolate and a hint of orange marmalade. There are also evolving notes of dried fruit - imagine plump juicy sultanas in particular with a suggestion of raisin and mango.

With time, complex spices begin to build. These add warmth, depth and great structure, and can be split into definitive categories. There are woody spices reminiscent of old oak furniture, waxy wood polish and a hint of freshly shaved oak also. Then there are baking spices such as powdered ginger, cinnamon, all-spice and a late hit of star anise. Everything is underpinned by a distinct malted cereal characteristic. 

The finish is long and becomes more dry and savoury with time. The sweet and fruity elements slowly fade to reveal more of these warming, woody and baking spices. They take hold and linger for ages with delicious and mouthwatering consequences. A very late hit of crisp tart green apple and dried orange peel are also detected. Delicious.

What's the verdict?

This Ghost & Rare series has quickly gained a cult following and it is easy to see why. Each of the ones the we have sampled have been exquisite, but in their own differing ways. By focussing on one particular distillery, in this case the often un-loved and under appreciated Pittyvaich, the blenders can then selected other whiskies to compliment the aroma and flavour profiles. This fourth version is fabulous, tasty, balanced and expressive. We cannot wait to see what distillery will be featured next.

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