Review: Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Wine Cask Blend
Johnnie Walker’s experimental, limited-time releases continue this month with the second expression in the series to be released in the U.S.: Wine Cask Blend. (Two more expressions from this series, Rum Cask Blend and Espresso Roast, have been released internationally and are not available in the U.S. That brings the total number of experimental releases up to six.)
The unique blend is influenced by experimentation of maturation in wine casks, a project set in The unique blend is influenced by experimentation of maturation in wine casks, a project set in motion by Johnnie Walker Master Blender Jim Beveridge nearly a decade ago. In 2015 Aimee Gibson, a member of the Johnnie Walker blending team, took on the project and through experiments of her own, developed a wonderful new whisky in the Blenders’ Batch series. This welcoming blend includes some whiskies matured in wine casks. It is crafted with malt whiskies from the Highland such as Clynelish and some from Speyside such as Roseilse. It also includes creamy grain whiskies, such as those from Cameronbridge. The result is a light and vibrant whisky with notes of orchard fruit and red berries.
It’s a bit troubling that the only information on the aging is that “some whiskies” are matured in “wine casks.” There’s no information about how much of the blend goes into wine casks, for how long, or even what kind of wine we’re talking about. After all, sherry, Port, and white zinfandel are all “wine.” Naturally, there’s no age statement on the bottle, either.
Anyway, we’ll have to plow forward despite our ignorance…
Light as a feather, pinkish in color, and pleasantly aromatic, the whisky offers a few unusual aromas (driven by the wine cask treatment) of bold florals, fresh peaches, strawberry, and mint, alongside more traditional vanilla and some modest cereal notes. The palate is soft and expressive — and so sweet that it initially feels a bit like a rum, complete with plenty of fruit and lots of vanilla character. As it evolves on the tongue the whisky reveals more fruit character, including some apple, citrus, and red berries, along with classic baking spice notes. The finish is where you see the granary character the most, with a lasting cereal note that lingers as the fruit quickly fades.
For what it’s worth, my wife calls it a “whisky for ladies.” That ain’t a bad thing, but she’s not wrong.
B+ / $30 / johnniewalker.com