Monday, October 11, 2010


I have a couple of whisky posts to do as we were on holiday in Turkey a week or two back and I've now learned to cash in big stylee on the ridiculous duty-free offers available.

These are in no particular order, so, first: Johnnie Walker Black Label. A couple of points of interest here, not least that it's the first blended whisky featured. This litre bottle cost me 32 Euro, which at today's exchange rate is £27.95, which in turn is the equivalent of £19.57 for a standard-size bottle, compared with the £25-ish you'd pay in the shops. It's a better deal than that, though, as the bottle came in a gift pack with two nice chunky JW-logoed whisky tumblers, one of which is pictured here.

There is a long and fascinating history to the whisky-blending industry - nay, some might say, art - but I don't propose to launch into describing it here (Dr. Whisky has some interesting thoughts, as usual). There's a general perception these days that single malts are where it's at if you're a true whisky connoisseur, but this was most certainly not always the case, and has only really been so for perhaps the last 20 years or so.

What you basically want to do if you want to become a world-bestriding whisky blending house is to buy your own distillery. That's what Johnnie Walker and family did when they snapped up the venerable Cardhu distillery in 1893. Teacher's did the same with Ardmore around the same time, and Chivas snapped up Strathisla in the 1940s. The point of doing this, of course, is to ensure a steady supply of whisky to put into your premium blends, and sure enough Cardhu single malt (of which more later) is at the heart of Johnnie Walker's blends.

That there are other whiskies in here as well is very obvious when you drink the stuff, though, as while there's an initial sweetness from the Cardhu there's a good drying chunk of peat and smoke at the end - I would guess, looking at the rest of Diageo's whisky stable, that it's probably a dollop of Caol Ila. Anyway, it's absolutely one of my favourite things and an excellent argument for not being all malt-snobby. If you want an everyday entry-level blend recommendation then Teacher's is unquestionably the one in my book (and indeed in my cupboard).

One weird feature of the bottle of JWB I've got, though, is this crazy cap attachment - unscrew the cap and underneath is this clear plastic thingy with a little rattly ball-bearing in it. I assume this is some sort of whisky portion-measuring arrangement, but a) it's far from obvious how it works, b) it dispenses ridiculously small measures and c) there doesn't (at first glance anyway) appear to be an obvious way of removing it that doesn't jeopardise the contents of the bottle. Quite frankly if I've shelled out upwards of 20 quid for a bottle of whisky, I'll decide for myself in what size portions I drink it, thanks very much. Consider me mildly annoyed.

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