Johnnie Walker’s commitment to ongoing change regularly has given Whisky enthusiasts a few classics over the years to build upon their core range. Never a brand to rest on their laurels, the number 1 Scotch Whisky in the world has this year introduced a new limited edition series which should be rolling out a number of expressions in the future, all focusing on broad thinking and experimental approaches to whisky. It’s being dubbed the Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch series, and the first expression to springboard off this platform is the a curious Red Rye Finish.
Master Blender Dr Jim Beveridge (yes, that is his real name) had in the lead for this new series which aims to further an understanding of alternative flavours when it comes to classic Scotch Whisky – think wine, coffee, chocolates. The idea for the series’ first expression came about as Beveridge reflected on his time blending bourbons and ryes back in Kentucky during the 1990s, hence revisiting that time and setting out to produce a whisky that took more than 50 experiments to perfect, making use of over 200 malt and grain whiskies before arriving at the final product.
Of course, rye casks aren’t readily associated with traditional Scottish Whisky, so the Red Rye Finish is a curious first choice to signal the beginning of a series; though it’s an appropriate one nonetheless. The blend is a combination of four different malt and grain whiskies which have been drawn from first fill ex-bourbon casks, with some of these whiskies sourced from the now closed Port Dundas distillery and the Gardhu distillery. The real kick comes with the finish, which has the liquid in ex-rye casks for up the six months, enough to draw layers of sweetness, fresh fruit, and of course, the spice that is characteristic of a good rye.
Has Beveridge managed to strike a balance between the whisky’s smoother profile without overlooking the spice? The profile consistently points to yes. This is a gorgeous whisky which is exceedingly easy to approach for both casual and zealous whisky fans. Thanks to the rye influence you’ll get a sweet and spicy nose full of honey and cinnamon, nose it some more and it starts to lift this great big malty cereal with some fruit, mainly banana and apple; it’s a good preview of the palate, which on the front is a spice that creeps through to the back while the middle is bursting with a creamy texture and notes of honey and cinnamon, following on from the nose. Vanilla notes are nicely lifted towards the back once the spice begins to drop off, with that nose of malty cereal and fruit coming back bringing a slightly nutty send-off that carries in the lingering finish.
The balance here is admirable, and speaks highly Johnnie Walker’s latest series. It’s particularly valuable in classic cocktails (seriously, try this in an Old Fashioned) and is a steal for an RRP of $60 per 700ml bottle. You can find the Red Rye Finish at various specialist stores across Australia, or you can find it online at Dan Murphy’s HERE. The AU Review will keep you updated on any more expressions as part of this release so stay tuned!