When discussing Scotch, there are so many questions. What is the meaning of blended Scotch? Why are some Scotches “Whiskys,” while others are “Whiskey”? I sought to lay a few of these questions to rest in mid-March when focus fell on popular Johnnie Walker, a top-selling blended whisky. Here are a few of those discoveries.
Lesson 2: The Johnnies
To begin, definitions for Single Malt Scotch and Blended Whisky were provided. Single Malts require (a) distillation in a single, Scottish distillery, (b) creation through pot still only, and (c) exclusive use of malted barley. Blended Whiskys, on the other hand, may (a) contain both grain (i.e. wheat, rye, barley) whiskys and malts, and (b) may be sourced from numerous distilleries.
Historically, John Walker opened his grocery store in 1820 in Ayrshire, a coastal village along the Northern Channel shores of southern Scotland. There, he sold “Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky,” a product so popular that it urged along his success. Later, in 1856, when he started to ail, he passed his business to son Alexander, a man whose mastery of the art of tea-blending afforded his instinct for blending area Scotches to create new, tasty blends like his “Old Highland Whisky.” This was so successful that Alexander began searching new, British markets to whom to offer the product. Once established in these markets, British drinkers bought bottle after bottle, and Alexander – more successful than his father – christened his whisky “Johnnie Walker Blended Whisky,” celebrating its success by allowing extra Johnnie Walker to be stocked on store shelves with the alteration of its bottle to its current, square shape.
Johnnie Walker Blended Whisky has since had many owners. Currently, British company Diageo directs the enterprise, offering iconic Johnnie Walker in differently labeled bottles. Tasted were:
(1) Red – Best enjoyed with a mixer like soda or water
(2) Black, 12-year old (13.35/ shot) – Twelve-year-old scotch being the youngest in this blend, whiskys from the Islands, Highlands, and Speyside are present. Tasty, it is a true “Training Wheels” Scotch, a bit of peat, and enough caramel and honey to win many over.
3) Platinum, 18-yr old (31.00/shot) – Eighteen-year-old whisky being the youngest in this blend, it drinks very well. A lot of honey and caramel and a pleasant finish.
(4) Gold Reserve (31.00- shot, 18-yr also) – Platinum’s silent cousin, it offers a bit of understated peach on the nose and then follows through with a kick of peat on its finish.