Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

The Story

Johnnie Walker is introducing a new range of limited edition, experimental whiskies: Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch.
 
The Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch range lifts the lid on the skill and never-ending pursuit of flavour that drives the blending team, led by master blender Dr Jim Beveridge. The ongoing flavour experiments that Beveridge and his team study are a crucial part of their work, focusing on developing and understanding alternative flavours including wine, coffee and chocolate. 
 

Jim Beveridge said: “At any one time, there are hundreds of experiments into flavour being carried out by our blenders which involve making adjustments to atmospheric conditions, the types of wood and grain used, cask finishes and other elements of whisky-making in the pursuit of exceptional new flavours.”

 

Delicious Food pairing with the Blender’s Batch at the launch night

 

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

The first to be released in the series, Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish, is the result of experiments into the influence of bourbon and rye whiskey flavours on Scotch, inspired by the time Dr Beveridge spent blending bourbons and ryes in Kentucky in the 1990s.

Jim Beveridge said “For the first release, we wanted to focus on what happens when the intensely sweet flavours that can be found in bourbon and rye whiskies are brought together with the depth and subtlety of carefully crafted Scotch”.

The Blender’s Batch is a blend of grain and malt whiskies, with the signature Grain influence is coming from Port Dundas – It is now a demolished distillery and no longer exist. The other core whisky in this blend is Cardhu. I heard Cardhu is the very first distillery that Alex Walker (the founder of Johnnie Walker) purchased back in 1890s, it connects back to the heritage as well, the Speyside whisky contributes solid fruity flavours in here.

The other major focus in this particular glass is the fact that the whisky is cask finished – the whiskies are blended together and allowed them to finish for 6 months in Rye Cask, this will gives extra intensity and spiciness.

The intriguing part of this creation is the style is very indifferent and obscure, instead of focusing on traditions, rye cask finishing is actually a difficult thing to do – the influence from the rye cask tend to dominate easily, and it is hard to balance that flavour.

By Jim Beveridge’s own experimentation, inspired by his visit to Kentucky in the 1990s, where he studied how whiskies are made there. Then it is Emma Walker, who is one of the twelve Johnnie Walkers Blenders, have put forward this project when she interacted with bartenders, understanding how bartenders have been working with Rye whiskies over the last three or four years, as there was an incredible explosion of the popularity of Rye whiskies . This experiment batch aims to represent this trend, and produce a whisky for bartenders to work with.

Blender’s Batch with cocktail, I am no expert but a subtle hint of rye influence can be tasted, nice!

My Musings

This Red Rye Finish is the first release of the Blender’s Batch series, so we can look forward to many of Jim and his team’s experimentation to come. What is coming up next in the series remains in the dark but from what we have here it will be an interesting development.
For me, I am all for experiments like Blender’s Batch series as I believe experimentation is the ultimate way to advance in the realm of whisky. Making them available to the consumer’s market is a great idea because I feel trying products like this will also expand our horizons of tasting as we get to try novel, different flavour combinations. I love the concept and I love it more after tasting it. Although I feel if the whisky can be released at a slightly higher strength (maybe it will be too spicy perhaps?), the flavours will stand out better. Probably the product is also aimed to be utilized in cocktails, which is a field I am not particularly familiar with.

Tasting Notes

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

Style: Sweet and Dry Spices

Nose:

Robust grain influence on the nose, featuring crème brulee running with a touch of acidity from dried mangoes. Spice upholding the vanilla and honey core. Faint hint of five spices and sweet corn at the rim of the aroma.

Palate:
More grain signatures pumping onto the palate, rye influence starting to drift in. Creamy texture on forefront while spices darting in from behind. Pineapple notes in a mix of dried mangoes and papaya. Vanilla cream and honey drops, soft sweet corn brushes. A drying touch in the middle. Malt undertone is slowly unveiled towards the end while spice firing off to a light oak finish.

Finish:
Light oak, slightly drying, honey and creamy vanilla coating around nicely.

Thoughts:

Interesting whisky as I feel it aims to demonstrate the traits of rye, grain and malt whiskies at one go. The force of the grain and rye are pretty strong at times while the malt side a bit subdued, in the end they all have a part to play and this is unique to me. Sweet and creamy, nicely structured and I like how the spice is unleashed – such a nice glow. Decent, experimental dram.
 
[40%  2016 • Blended Malt • Batch #1 • Bottle Number: RR106013]
Photo Credit to Leo Burnett Australia
-Esmond