Friday 19 December 2014

Johnnie Walker Blue Label 2015 Hong Kong Launch - A Private Reception In Quest of Rarity, Depth and Character (Tasted #147)

Tuesday night saw Hong Kong's Armani/Prive transformed into a subtle sea of blue, as Moët Hennessy Diageo celebrated the end of the year and the launch of the limited edition 2015 Johnnie Walker Blue Label, with a stunning event complete with four Stradavarius violins and a performance from Amelia Chan, the newly appointed Concertmaster of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong.

On arrival guests were greeted with a handsome (blue, of course) cocktail menu offering a choice of four cocktails - from the light "Traveler's Smash" (served tall with mint, apple, zest and of course Johnnie Walker) to the strong "Dark Fashion" (Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve with Vanilla, chocolate and a blend of bitters, served Old Fashioned style), prepared by Ricky Liau, fellow Aussie and 2013 Diageo World Class HK Champion (who we're told may be heading to Perth/Melbourne soon, if any bars are looking for a gun bartender). There was something for everyone and judging by the popularity of all four cocktails, the whole menu was well received (especially the Negroni-esque "Burning Light", combining Double Black with sweet vermouth and Talisker 10).

But of course, it was Blue Label we were there to celebrate, and so after the crowd had enjoyed a cocktail or two and Armani/Prive's fantastic canapés, Drew Mills (Marketing Director, Diageo Brands) took to the stage to present the main event - a (generous) tasting of the new 2015 release (the makeup of which we understand is still a closely-guarded secret, although I'd be willing to bet there's a little well-aged Islay malt in there, given the subtle peat smoke).

Long-time readers of this blog would know we mostly feature single malts, although have certainly featured (and enjoyed) many blends over the years. It'd been a good 3 years since I'd last tasted Blue Label, and that was from an old bottle back in Sydney which had been sitting 90% empty for far too long (and like any spirit, had likely dulled).

I have to say...while the main point of difference with the new 2015 release might be the bottle and packaging design, the whisky itself certainly impressed me more than I remember it doing years ago (and we were tasting it out of a tumbler too). 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label 2015 release (40% ABV, NAS, Scotland, $1,780HKD)
Colour: ...a little hard to tell with all the blue light. Probably not so blue under natural light ;)
Nose: Nutty and rich, with a lot of orange citrus, and very slight peat smoke - reminiscent of an older (say 20yo+) Islay malt, Lagavulin most notably. The peat smoke is there, but it's almost not, and certainly not the dominant characteristic.
Palate: Rich, oily and mouthfilling, with lots of orange zest and some noticeable maltiness. Incredibly smooth. Some hints of varnish, oak and leather too. The smoke is there, but it's increasingly subtle.
Finish: Long, smoke, wafers, and varnish at the very end. Very enjoyable.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. A great nose, carried through right through to the finish. Complex, but at the same time approachable. Definitely a dram I'd be happy to have a second of!

Whilst enjoying the remainder of our Blue, Amelia Chan, Concertmaster of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong took her place on stage, with a $6.5m USD Stradavarius in hand, and gave us a stunning rendition of two pieces, including a Bach (which was all the more impressive to played the violin for about 9 years but never got past Grade 1...).

It was interesting to note the quiet and respectful nature of the crowd, which was a direct contradiction to other HK whisky and music events we've been to. Everyone seemed to enjoy the performances, and of course the whisky - a great match.

A display was set up to explain a little more about the violins' histories (most dating back to the 1700s) along with tasting notes for the Blue Label. Another interesting set up was the nosing sticks (above), which separated the key notes found in Johnnie Walker and allowed guests to experience them individually.

After another cocktail and further chat with the friendly Diageo and PR teams, it was time to head home, a great night had by all.

Martin. would like to thank MHDHK and QNMPR for the invitation to what was a very enjoyable night.

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