Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Roll your own Walker

A couple weeks ago, the Diageo folks brought Andrew Ford, the Johnnie Walker blender, to town, and he brought with him various single malts for a blending exercise. Andrew mentioned that he'd stopped off to fill some bottles personally for the event and it's pretty clear, once we started nosing the various glasses poured for us, that Cardhu was back in town after a long absence. The malt is so beloved by the Spanish that Diageo pulled it out of the U.S. years ago (and even started agitating for the ability to sell a vatted malt called Cardhu, which raised a potent stink in whisky circles).
Along with that Speyside, we were offered portions of a grain whisky, an Islay (Caol Ila is my guess), a Highland (Royal Lochnagar?), a Lowland (Glenkinchie), a west Highland (Oban), and a non-Islay island (Talisker). And so we tried to replicate the signature JW Black blend ourselves.

What did I learn? Well, for one, that even with the superior drams mentioned above, mxing together something coming that doesn't bowl you over yet still has a smokey, lusty JWB pop isn't just a matter of pouring on the flavor. Balance is hard to reach, and the single malts seem to get more intense when mixed together, without the correct level of grain whisky to harmonize matters. So kudos for the much-maligned blended Scotch blenders like Mr. A. Ford. And I also was reminded, after a long time between tastes of some of these Diageo whiskies, how much I really, truly love Caol Ila and Talisker.

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