I have had my fair share of tasting some of the finest Scotch and feel pretty proud to have tasted and written about it. This time it was a privilage to receive an invite from Diageo to attend a private tasting of their various blends of whisky. It was a session hosted by Ewan Gunn – the Global Whisky Master & Category Training Manager. Ewan has over 18 years of experience in the Whiskey industry and this was an invite I just could not refuse.
Diageo’s Global Whisky Master, Ewan Gunn is also referred to ‘James Bond’ of the whisky industry. The highlight for me was gaining some extended knowledge of how to drink and appreciate the blends via its rich history, aroma and flavors the world of Scotch whisky has to offer.
A hand picked lucky lot of bloggers ended up congregating at one of the suites at the Ritz Carlton in Bangalore. The ambiance and the setting was just perfect. Ewan Gunn shared his unique understanding of Scotch along with the history behind it. The order of the night was Vat 69, Black Dog, Black & White, Johnnie Walker – Red and Black Label. And like any good tasting session, we got to taste all!
The clever bit about the tasting was a plate at the center of the table, with honey and spices that form the flavours of the various blends to ensure we understood the tasting notes.
Did you know Diageo has around 10 million casks around the world, out of the 22 million casks that total the Scotch industry?
Let me take you through the course of the tasting session we had!
This blend, needs no introduction, and this iconic bottle has been around for over hundred years. The history behind the name is Willian Sanderson, had prepared one hundred casks of Blended Whisky. He then hired a panel of experts to do the tasting. The best of the lot that won the majority of the vote was the one in the cask or vat number 69. This is not a Vatted malt, despite its name. There are over 40 malts and grains used and hence has no standard age statement attached to it either.
NOSE – Subtle hints of caramel, and spices.
PALATE – Translate from the Nose, caramel flavour, pepper hits your palate. Well rounded with some sweetness that drops the spice.
FINISH – Caramel with a spiced finish.
Black Dog (Black Reserve)
This whisky gets its name from Walter Millard, who actually brought whisky to India. He loved to fish and named it after his favourite salmon fishing fly, called the Black Dog.
NOSE – you get subtle hints of caramel and spices.
PALATE – sweet/ citrus flavours, well rounded, light and peaty.
FINISH – Caramel with a spiced long finish.
Black & White
This blended whisky founded by James Buchanan gets its name from the dogs he owned. A Black Scottish Terrier and a West Highland White Terrier. This blend has a broad spectrum of ages.
NOSE – Cirtus, subtle hint of biscuit and a some sourness to it like vinegar.
TASTE – A bit grainy, the citrus flavour mellow down with the sweetness of honey along with hints of smokiness to it.
FINISH – This one has more of the oak flavour, lingers for just a bit and disappears.
Black Dog (Triple Gold Reserve)
The production of this blended Scotch involves a triple maturation process just as the name suggests. Both Grain and Malt whiskies get matured in American Bourbon Casks and Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks, giving this blend its distinct flavour and finish.
NOSE – Caramel and vanilla stand out here, along with the casks wooden elements pop out.
PALATE – caramelized peachy flavour, with sweetness of vanilla and the aroma of wooded flavors unfold slow.
FINISH – Due to its distinctive flavour gives a warm and delicate finish.
This classic is about 200 years old and well known blending house. John “Johnnie” Walker had humble beginnings, he was a grocery store owner. He began to sell whisky in his shop. The popularity rose after his son Alexander Walker and his grandson Alexander Walker II took over. The design of the bottle has been the key highlight of product marketing. As these bottles had to be shipped across the world, to avoid breakage, were given a square shape so they do not roll over. Less breakage and able to fit more in to the containers has made this an iconic shaped bottled indeed!
The 24 degree slant of the label only added to the charm and appeal as it allowed the text to be larger and more visible. Tom Browne sketched the striding man which has become the symbol of Johnnie Walker label.
Red Label – “Pioneers Blend”
The world’s most famous and best selling Johnnie Walker range of blended whiskies is the Red Label.
NOSE – You get a hint of apple, with some citrus zing, and the smokey scent of the malt.
PALATE – quiet fruity with a subtle hint of cinnamon and pepper, and dried fruits emerge.
Finish – The finish was full of oak spices, a bit fiery when going down, yet smooth and the signature of all JW blends is the smoky finish.
Black Label – “Michelangelo’s David of the blender’s art”
NOSE – smokiness of the malt, hits the nose with dried fruits, vanilla and gentle peat.
PALATE – more of peat and smoke, sweetness of caramel and cinnamon pop out.
FINISH – Not a long finish, yet is smooth and silky finish and like all the signature of all JW blends, closes with a smoky finish.
Scotch has a rich heritage of over 500 years. It has stood the test of time due to the skilled craftsmanship adding to it the quality of diverse flavors. Ewan Gunn, with his passion and in-depth knowledge of the various blends of Whisky, proved just why he is the Global Scotch Whisky Ambassador at Diageo and Global Whisky Master at the Haig Club.
And yes, as ever, I close with a lovely yet mandatory picture with Ewan Gunn.
For those wondering which drink to opt for, well there is a Whisky for any one. There is no right way or wrong way of drinking it either. you could opt for drinking it neat, with water, on the rocks or as a cocktail. So take your pick and enjoy, cheers!
Hope you enjoyed reading my blog post, feel free to leave your comments below. Do let me know which is your favorite drink when it comes to scotch?
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**Disclaimer: Even thou the invite was complimentary, all views expressed are my own.