Whisky giant Johnnie Walker looks to be having fun playing around within their experimental series known as Blender’s Batch. Last year, the U.S. market saw the release of a 10-year-old Triple Grain American Cask whisky. Just last month, Johnnie Walker dropped their Wine Cask Blend. This new blend was led by Aimée Gibson, a member of the Johnnie Walker blending team.
According to a press release, Wine Cask Blend was influenced by experimentation of maturation in wine casks. The NAS whisky is partly comprised of malts from Clynelish and Roseisle, and grain whiskies from Cameronbridge. As the name states, some of the whiskies used in the blend were matured in wine casks.
If you’re expecting the signature smoky touch synonymous with Johnnie Walker, look elsewhere. Wine Cask Blend is light and fruity on the nose, with a certain youthful character coming through at times. Light malt and raspberries fill the nose, with hints of vanilla and green apples. On entry, toffee apples and berries dominate. Maybe some raspberry jam? Those notes provide the sweet side of the whisky, which is balanced by some citrus and a hint of spice. There is slightly vibrant (read: young) malt in the midpalate. The grain whiskies add a vanilla-tinged creaminess to the experience. The clean finish features hints of a berry tart.
Bottled at 40% abv, Johnnie Walker Wine Cask Blend is a very smooth whisky. The $29.99 per bottle asking price isn’t a big hit on your wallet. I would say I’m not in love with this blend, but I’ve returned to it several times and have quite enjoyed each dram. It’s different from any core range Johnnie Walker by a mile. I’ve tasted this whisky neat each time I’ve gone to it. Maybe it’s the summer heat, but I can see this in a sort of highball. A few berries. A splash of club soda. A sprig or two of fresh mint or even an orange twist. After all, this blend was designed with cocktails in mind. That could explain the whisky’s airy and fruity character. Bottom line, don’t expect a bold, smoky Johnnie Walker. If light and fruity is your thing, Wine Cask Blend will be right up your alley. 7/10
When the trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle debuted online, I literally jumped for joy. Kingsman was an insane thrill ride. It’s sort a of 007 on speed all the while winking to the audience. The sequel, which opens in theatres this Friday, looks to be even wilder.
Movie tie-ins are nothing new. Sometimes they seemed forced, but every now and then they’re done right. In the first film, the cover for the secret organization was a tailor’s shop. In the new film, their American counterpart’s cover: a Kentucky bourbon distillery. The filmmakers teamed up with none other than Old Forester to create a quality bourbon that would fit right in with the over-the-top world of The Kingsman.
Not that the bourbon is over-the-top. Well, maybe a little. This ain’t the Old Forester you’re used to.
The nose is notably spicier than the standard Old Forester. There is lots of oak spice, which makes me think a lot of the barrels for this release were pulled from upper warehouse floors. Some hot cocoa, vanilla extract and caramel balance out that spice. On entry, a sort of spiced vanilla custard, the kind topped with ground cinnamon, plays strongly and is complimented by orange zest. Some baking spice and a hint of leather on the midpalate add more complexity. The finish is long, with orange dreamsicle and mint lingering.
Old Forester set out to make a whiskey that balanced spice and heat, and they’ve succeeded. The volume’s turned up from the standard Old Forester flavor profile, but is still built around the distillery’s DNA. The whiskey is both familiar and new. I know what I’m sneaking into the theatre when I watch this film. 7.5/10
Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Rye is one of my favorite uncut whiskies. It’s not the most complex rye I’ve tasted from Michter’s. Their 10-year-old rye holds that honor. However, the barrel strength rye is an extremely enjoyable pour full of rye spice and brown sugar richness.
With this new release, Michter’s takes that rye whiskey and lets it rest in toasted barrels for a short amount of time, just like their previous releases of Toasted Barrel Bourbon. This is the first time they’ve barrel finished a rye. The barrels used for the finishing process, as the name implies, have been toasted and not charred. The wood used for the barrels was air dried for 24 months.
What does this toasted barrel do to the base rye whiskey? In short, it intensifies the flavors.
The nose is ripe with dark brown sugar, vanilla and a cornucopia of baking spices. The latter is more pronounced here than in Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye. On the palate, this toasted barrel-finished rye comes across as rich and bittersweet. Dark caramel and burnt sugar kick things off, followed by lovely toasted rye bread and a cabinet full of baking spices like allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. A layer of vanilla cream acts as a counterbalance against all the spice. The medium-length finish features spiced caramel and a touch of smoke.
Wow. The barrel finishing added a different dimension to Michter’s rye whiskey character. To add even more uniqueness, this release is a single barrel whiskey, which means each barrel could be slightly different. My 110 proof sample came from barrel 17C570. It’s simply fantastically rich and flavorful. The price is right, too. $75 for a 750ml bottle. Now the bad news – this is a limited release and not a regular offering. Fans of Michter’s rye whiskies should rush to pick this one up. 9/10