Saturday, 30 March 2013

Walking With Johnnie and Friends!

Whisky: Johnnie Walker Blue Label



Johnnie Walker


Johnnie Walker Blue Label



Scottish Blend






Pale Straw

Recently I got together with a very good friend of mine, in fact the one who purchased me my first bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label.  Every couple of months or so we try to meet up for dinner and a movie.

However my friend had recently become hooked on a couple of new restaurants.  See my friend is this awesome foodie.  He knows the good restaurants, he knows the bad ones and he knows what to order at the good ones. 

Over the course of us hanging out he started talking about these new restaurants, which made me perk up my ears and do a double take.

Why you might ask?

It's also the home of two new whisky bars that I'd seen Graham from the Odd Whisky Co on Facebook mention as being excellent whisky bars.

We both did double takes when we realized that his restaurants and my bars were one and the same.  He extracted a promise out of me.

That I wouldn't go to them without him first.  He wanted to show me around and especially since he knew most of the workers at both restaurants, wanted to introduce me to them.

Totally cool!

A couple of weeks go by and we both have time to head out for a dinner and drinks.  So I meet up with him in the city after work and we head over to the first whisky bar. 

The Lafayette.

A nice looking bar, I'm eager to take a look at their whisky menu and to see what I can see.

A nice little selection, 99% which I've already had, fairly reasonable prices on most of the whiskies, not much is jumping out at me as a must try, until I hit the blends.

Johnnie Walker Blue, supposedly the pinnacle of whisky according to most non whisky geeks.

Runs $200 a bottle and in my experience is the most often referenced whisky in movies and tv shows for when you're trying to show off that your drinking the good stuff.

An example of this would be a little while ago on Burn Notice when Michael, Jessie and the gang are after a bad guy, a drug dealer if I recall, and Jessie drinks the bad guy's whisky in order to slip him something.  Jessie apologizes and offers to buy a whisky, what's he having?  Jack and coke?  To which the drug dealer replies that he's drinking $100 dollar shots of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

Anyway you never see it for purchase by the dram, or if you do it's like $50+, which I'm sorry, but that price point is reserved for SPECIAL whiskies, from distilleries that are long closed or for whiskies older then my father.

It's going for $35 a dram here.  I'll take one please.

Pale liquid and to be honest I have no idea what I'm walking into.

Let's start with a nose. 

Lovely little nose that is fairly complex, vanilla, hints of smoke, brown sugars, salt, pears, white pepper, little earthy at times, honey, funky sour apples, little floral at times, cinnamon.

Interesting and by far the most complex nose I've ever encountered on a blend.

Maybe this whisky will be worth $200!  Time to give it a taste as that's the only way I'll find out!

Smooth, very very smooth.  Floral with honey, some fruit, pears and a hint of apples, some salt and pepper, hints of peat smoke, some spices such as cinnamon, oak and underneath it all, something that feels a little bit...artificial. 

However that smoothness hurts itself, there's nothing in there that really grabs your attention and says "hey look at me!"

A short finish that's floral and honestly a little harsh ends off this whisky.

I'm left unimpressed.  If this were a beer I'd equate it with a decent lager or pilsner, something that is sessionable and that you might drink a 6 pack over the course of the evening if you didn't want to focus too much on what your drinking.

Now that's not a bad for a whisky to be.  Most entry level single malts and bourbons are DESIGNED to be sessionable, something that you can have three or four drinks in a row.

HOWEVER if I'm drinking a $20 bottle of beer, it DAMN well better NOT be sessionable.  It needs to grab my attention in a way that makes me put down everything that I'm doing and focus my attention on it.  Same thing with a whisky.  $50 dollar bottles are fine if the whisky doesn't hold your attention.  However $200+ dollar bottles need to grab your attention and make you focus on the whisky.

Is Johnnie Walker Blue Label a bad whisky?  No it's not.  By no means is it a bad whisky, but it sure as heck isn't worth $200, I'd honestly pay $60 to $80 for a bottle of this caliber.  If you're looking for a good blend/vatted whisky, grab yourself a bottle of their Green Label before it runs out.  More bang for less buck then the Blue Label! 

Nose:          23/25
Taste:         19/25
Finish:         19/25 
Balance:      20/25

Overall:       82/100

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Whisky Live is almost upon us!  In 33 days it starts in Perth and it has got me stupidly excited!

Last year I wasn't able to go, but I'd heard some excellent things about it so this year, about 6 weeks ago, when it popped up as a suggested post in my Facebook post I immediately took a look at it.  At the time there wasn't much information out there about it, but even though the tickets were running at $95 each it sounded like it'd be a hell of a lot of fun so I immediately purchased tickets for both my wife and myself, and let our whisky club know about this chance.

I didn't think anything much about this, beyond occasionally checking their webpage to see if there were any updates.

And then Kavalan occurred.  A whisky that I'd spent years chasing relentlessly, calling all over the globe trying to put my hands on a bottle of it.  I'd started following a local bottle shop on Facebook on the recommendation of a co worker, a whisky store with awesome selection.  Shortly after I started following them they posted something that made my jaw drop.

A Kavalan tasting!
7 drams, $30.  I was in, so in.  I immediately booked spots for my wife and myself, reserved a couple more for possible whisky club members who might want to come and then sat down to wait.

When the day arrived work dragged out, oh so slowly, customers lingered in my shop past closing, driving me nuts even though I maintained a giant grin until my wife and I could finally get into our cab and head over to the bottle shop.

There we met a very nice gentleman named Doug, who I thought at first, was the Australian rep for Kavalan.

How quickly I was proved wrong.  He and his partner owned an whisky importing business and Kavalan was part of their portfolio.

Even cooler was the fact that they owned Whisky Live in Australia.

Holy crap!!!

Yeah definitely not a Kavalan rep.

He talks briefly about what they've got lined up for Whisky Live this year and it sounds good, however we exchange mobile numbers and make a plan to meet up a little later on for dinner or drinks.

Later is the next day and sweet jesus there is no describing how exciting the conversation that occurs is!

He mentions that many whisky distilleries are going to be coming to Whisky Live.

I immediately ask about a few of my favorites, Talisker, Buffalo Trace, Ardbeg.

Yes, yes, maybe.

Doug talks about some of the events that will be at Whisky Live.  Food and whisky matching such as chocolate, cheese, oysters, etc.

Whisky cocktails with bartenders there who'll be able to pair the RIGHT whisky with the right cocktail.

A glencairn stand where if you don't know how to, they'll teach you how to nose and taste whisky in order to pull the maximum amount out of your tasting experience.

Over 100 whiskies, up for the tasting!

A whisky raffle with the first prize being over a $1000 worth of different whiskies with the proceeds going to Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

Even better is that a week before Whisky Live takes place if you've purchased tickets you'll receive an email with a whisky list, with all of the different whiskies available for tasting so you can make a plan of attack on what whiskies you would love to try.

All of this sounds awesome and makes me extremely happy that I got our tickets early.

A couple weeks go by and then I wound up talking to Doug last night about some updates in Whisky Live.  More distilleries signing on.

Sullivans Cove, Nant, Suntory, Laphroiag, Noah's Mill, Highland Park, Wemyss, and the one that has me panting even more heavily now: Kavalan.

Even better is that for many of these distilleries we'll be getting a chance to taste whiskies that aren't yet out, or are just coming out.  Kavalan expressions not yet out, Talisker's Storm? Highland Park's Loki?

I mean obviously the distilleries are going to be bringing their standard whiskies: Talisker 10, Highland Park 12, etc.  That just makes sense, but for us whisky geeks you're going to have to pull out some of the stops, bring out some whiskies that I haven't likely tried before, or if I've tried it, is a special occasion whisky.

Who knows what all is going to be there?  Not me, but I know that off the little I've heard, I'm drooling.  April 27th can't come fast enough!