Another great night thanks to Johnnie Walker. This would be my third time at a Johnnie Walker Tasting. I’ve only missed one of these events since I started in 2010. There hasn’t been much change in the presentation other than the absence of the Green Label. I love the Green Label and I was a little disappointed. It”s replacement wasn’t even the Double Black like it was in the fall (the one event I missed!), instead it was another offering of the Black Label. But any scotch is better than no scotch (not necessarily true).
When my friend Josh and I arrived there were maybe four or five people in the outdoor waiting area. Within minutes of inputting our confirmation codes and receiving our sole (cough) drink token, a whole cavalcade of people started pouring into the waiting area. And they were loud. Not “there so many people here that it’s naturally loud” loud, but “these people are gonna be assholes loud” loud. Which is fine. This was a night to have fun and fun was certainly had.
The indoor waiting area setup is essentially the same every time. The Johnnie Walker Timeline on the eastern wall, the expensive bottle on display across from it, the bar to the
left right of the entrance. It all felt familiar and incredibly comfortable.It’s really a good room to just roam around and talk to people. Music was great, too. It was a long and really slow version of “Howlin’ for You” by The Black Keys. Josh and I immediately went to the bar to avoid the long lines and ordered a Black Label neat. If in some hypothetical non-existing world (that definitely does not actually exist) Josh and I had two extra drink tokens each, I think we would have gotten an Old Fashioned and another Black Label neat. But it doesn’t (cough) and we didn’t (cough cough). They also had a ginger ale concoction to sample and a variety of cheeses and vegetables to munch on before the show.
After a few minutes talking to the attendees and some of the Johnnie Walker girls, Josh and I saw the Master of Whisky Stephen Wilson step out and announce that the tasting was about to start. We were excited. We knew we would probably see the same video starring Robert Carlyle (see below) and taste the same scotches as always, but Wilson is awesome and a treat to listen to. In that totally non-existent world that I assure you really doesn’t exist, I’m sure Stephen (he would let me call him that) and I would have a quick conversation during a private tasting at The Capital Grille on the merits of Talisker being my first scotch and how it supports the Green Label as one of the core scotches in the blend. Oh, non-existent world, you’re so silly! (cough cough cough) Wilson is very cool and professional, never being phased by the snobbish or dickish questions he often has to answer from the crowd. Tonight he really had his hands full. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been to a 10pm show, but the crowd seem really rowdy. Most of the people Josh and I spoke with had a few in them before going to the show. Even so, Wilson held it together.
Johnnie Walker definitely knows how to through a tasting. If you missed it this time around, join the Striding Man Society and catch them in another city or back here in Chicago during the fall (usually around October). Before I end this post I’m going to put some quick fire tasting notes for all the Johnnie Walker blends I’ve had. Those in bold were available at the show.
- Red Label – Not my favorite. Nose is spicy, palate has a bit of walnut to it, finish is a little rough (I like it rough. wut?) Good for mixing.
- Black Label – Classic. Nose is maple syrup, palate has some vanilla and smokiness (Josh claims its pot), finish is not bad.
- Double Black – Black label’s big brother. Nose is really smokey and woody (thanks to the charred casks it was aged in), palate has a good hint of peat, finish last for a good while. Take it neat.
- Green Label – My favorite. Nose is really woody and smells like the beach, palate is really peaty (it has Talisker in it goddammit!), finish is very long.
- Gold Label – Josh’s favorite. I’ll let him handle the notes (which I will translate into something sensible). Nose has honey and butter notes to it, palate follows along with the buttery silkiness, finish is smooth and gentle.
- Blue Label – The King. I haven’t had enough of it to be really accurate. Nose is really fragrant, palate is shockingly smooth and light with a dark chocolate taste, finish is long and smoky.
Quick note added April 16 at 6:21am: Shit. I just looked up the tasting notes for the Black Label, Michael Jackson (the whisky expert, not the other one) says there is marijuana on the palate. Josh was right. I guess the whole 2012 thing is real, huh.