You’d be right to think that the blenders behind the world’s number one best-selling Scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker®, have an obsessive focus on making their familiar, famous blends consistently excellent year after year. They do, but at any one time there are also hundreds of ongoing new experiments in flavour being carried out by the Johnnie Walker blending team in Scotland. Now, for the first time, the brand is opening its doors to these experiments in flavour with the release of their experimental whisky, and this year with the release of the Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish.
Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch is a brand new, limited edition series of experimental whiskies that challenge convention and lift the lid on the skill and never-ending pursuit of flavour that drives the small team of 12 expert blenders led by master blender Dr Jim Beveridge, a man whose personal journey making whisky began over 40 years ago.
The hundreds of on-going experiments that Beveridge along with fellow blender, Emma Walker and their team study are a crucial part of their work, focusing on developing and understanding alternative flavours including wine, coffee and chocolate. There’s even one that’s looking at a very distinct point in the fractional distillation process that produces spirit with an intriguing fruit note.
The first to be launched in the Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch series is the Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish, developed by Johnnie Walker’s team of blenders, led by Emma Walker, and inspired by the time Beveridge, now her mentor, spent blending bourbons and ryes in Kentucky in the 1990s.
Emma Walker, who is the company’s first female master blender in its history, concocted the new blend with flavours of bourbon and rye – from 50 experiments, exploring 203 malt grains whisky samples, created by 4 whiskies including Cardhu single malt for its vibrant fresh fruitiness, along with creamy, vanilla grain whisky from the now silenced Port Dundas distillery, and then being exclusively drawn from first fill ex-bourbon casks then finished up to six months in ex-rye casks for a perfect balance of intense, sweetness, layered fresh fruit and spice.
Emma Walker said: “I love having the opportunity to experiment and play around with flavour when making whisky and with more than 8 million casks of whiskies in over 30 distilleries to choose from, the only limit put on our experiments is that of our own imagination. As blenders, we tend to think ‘from the bar back’ when making whisky so that whisky fans at home and bartenders have the ideal blends at hand to serve neat, on the rocks, with ginger ale, soda or as the foundation of a flawless Scotch-based cocktail, like the Manhattan.”
To gauge how Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish stacks up against its American cousin, Emma Walker journeyed from the Highlands of Scotland to downtown Manhattan, New York City.
The trip proved a rich source of inspiration for Emma Walker as her product was well received by quite a few of the most influential names in the New York cocktail culture. These included Dave Arnold, Krissy Harris, Sother Teague and Peter Napolitano.
During the visit, she introduced the red rye as an alternative ingredient to bourbon for the whisky-based Manhattan cocktail. The Red Rye Finish worked its magic on the cocktail by retaining the cocktail’s original flavour, much to the delight of the American mixologists.
“It’s a lovely good thing from across the pond!” declared Peter Napolitano, bartender from The Sunset Park Bowling Alley.
Dave Arnold, the Founder and President of the Museum of Food and Drink and owner of Booker and Dax, food and drink lab, concurred: “it does drink like a Manhattan – not like a Rob Roy you’ve had before.” Although with very similar ingredients, Rob Roy and Manhattan have different base spirits where Roy Roy uses Scotch whisky to anchor the recipe. With Emma’s new blend that leans towards American rye whiskey, Manhattan’s signature base spirit.
Emma Walker said: “Through my visit to New York, I’ve been able to talk to bartenders, and the notes I’ve taken back would be really valuable to myself and the rest of the team…I’m extremely proud of the whisky we made. The trip opened my mind to the many possibilities of Scotch.”
Watch the film where Johnnie Walker blender Emma Walker goes on a journey of flavour discovery from Scotland to NYC here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMnelbgMJPg&t=10s
Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish is now available for a limited time at supermarkets, restaurants, nightlife outlets and leading convenient stores nationwide.
Johnnie Walker® Expert Blenders
Our blenders’ passion, skill and commitment to innovation has enabled them to consistently create perfect whiskies like Johnnie Walker Red Label and Johnnie Walker Black Label for generations.
Our blenders can choose from more than eight million casks of carefully crafted Scotch whisky drawn from more than 30 distilleries across Scotland, meaning that Johnnie Walker is crafted from a flavour palette that none of our competitors can match.
For almost two centuries, six generations of our blenders – starting with John Walker himself – have been bold visionaries, playing and experimenting with flavour not out of duty or necessity but because they love what they do. It’s this skill and vision that has enabled our blenders to consistently create perfect whiskies like Johnnie Walker Red Label and Johnnie Walker Black Label for generations. This latest expression comes from a brand that has always been committed to the importance of innovation to drive sales globally.