Tuesday 23 January 2018

The Art of Blending: Launch of Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch: Espresso Roast and Rum Cask Finish (Tasted #381 - 382)

The last couple of years have proved to be quite an exciting time for Johnnie Walker and all its fans with the recent relaunch of their 18yo (with a new name and packaging), 2016's release of the experimental series including the Blenders' Batch "Red Rye Finish", "Select Casks" Rye Cask Finish and the relaunch of the Green Label back into the Australian Market earlier last year. Personally, I found the experimental series to be delightful and interesting, especially in the price range it was set at.

With a desire to keep innovating and to try and appease the ever-evolving global whisky market, Johnnie Walker has now released the second release in the series of limited-edition experimental series with the Blenders' Batch: Espresso Roast and Rum Cask Finish. Similar to initial series, this second release is also targeted at bartenders and mixologists for use in cocktails and other mixes.

The Espresso Roast batch was created by Aimée Gibson, Johnnie Walker Blender using heavily roasted barley matured in a combination of rejuvenated casks and first-fill Bourbon casks. The Rum Cask Finish was created by Blender, Chris Clark using a blend of Speyside and Lowland whiskies finished in a Carribean pot still rum casks. The Rum Cask is said to have been worked on by Chris over the past decade prior to arriving at the final expression. These distillation and finishing techniques are certainly not new though their use in these series does result in quite different profiles.

Inspired by the Espresso Roast release, the launch of the series was held at the newly rebranded Brewtown Cafe, Surry Hills (previously Gnome Cafe). Simon McGoram, Diageo Whisky Ambassador and Coffee Sensory Expert, Ryan Spinoglio joined forces to co-host the evening, combining both of their prowess to introduce the series and in particular the Espresso Roast release.

Both whiskies exhibited subtle notes with the Espresso Roast having a more dominant roast, chocolate characters. Interestingly, I found both to be quite creamy and milky and this bode well with the use of the Espresso Roast release in cocktails. Think Espresso Martini though curated simply with a cold brew and a serve of the Espresso Roast. The result, in my view, was very close to a decent espresso martini.

Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch Espresso Roast (43.2% ABV, NAS, Scotland - A$54.99)
This was my pick of the two new releases and for simplicity sake, you can add cold brew to the mix for a kick-ass yet simple espresso martini. Wouldn't that be awesome to have this summer?

Colour: Golden maple syrup

Nose: The nose hints of dark chocolate bitterness with a hint of smoke, cherry and then some more dark chocolate to appease.

Palate: The whiff of chocolate from the nose translate into a blend of vanilla and chocolate, bitter melon, apple and cherry. The palate is quite balanced though riddled with soft yet enticing notes.

Finish: Subtle, long, with lingering roasted notes, tobacco leaf.

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 91/100

Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch Rum Cask Finish (40.8% ABV, NAS, Scotland, A$54.99)
Of the two batch releases, I found the Rum Cask Finish to be a tad too soft and mellow. Structuring a cocktail with the Rum Cask Finish may risk the whisky being drowned out by the other ingredients.

Colour: Light champagne

Nose: The nose has subtle notes of vanilla, clove and a mixture of fruits - coconut, banana and mango. The fruity and spiced notes may have been inherited from the rum casks.

Palate: The palate is soft with some banoffee pie served with cream that then eases into a light clove spice. Lots of sweetness in this though certainly not as complex as other blends.

Finish: Medium to long with that spiced rum finish.

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 90/100

Thanks to Liz of Leo Burnett Sydney and Diageo for having us at the launch.


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