Johnnie Walker Blending Workshop – Discovering the Secrets in the Blend
I’m a big fan of breaking barriers and so it is with whisky. As one of a large number of media invited to the Johnnie Walker blending event, I was pleased to be seated next to The Miss Whiskey and near other women who were fans of whisky. I may be more a sweet and floral kinda gal but as Johnnie Walker taught us, there are many ways to blend to create the perfect whisky and only one of their whiskeys was smoky. But first – what we learned.
The art of blending is something I am extremely familiar with. From having learned aromatherapy around 15 years ago, blending is the foundational art of most things in life. Whether it is modern stainless steel, fabrics, chocolate or whisky, blending is a fundamental part of creating amazing things. For example, what would cutlery be like made out of tin or copper? Not great but put them into different blends and you get stronger, more durable metals. What is a perfume without complexity? What is a tartan with only one colour? What is a cocktail with only one ingredient? Not as good as a blend – and that is what Johnnie Walker taught us all.
We were a large group of people and so we were divided into 2 groups. One group got to go to tea and cocktails first and my group got to go to perfume making, chocolate and wool blending first. We learned about the amazing Angela Flanders and how she started out intending to repair vintage furniture and ended up making perfumes and still does over 25 years later.
Of course, my favourite was Rococo who brought chocolate for us all to try and learn about bean to bar – even giving us a cocoa pod to eat seeds from (well, suck on them – we didn’t eat the raw seed).
The second half of the evening was dedicated to cocktail making where we learned about how to blend the perfect cocktail. I might have fallen in love with the whisky and champagne cocktail with sugar. It was brilliant fun. We also tried one with chocolate milk – my least favourite.
We learned about real tea from the Rare Tea Company and the difference between delicious real tea and the flavours from those vs the stuff you get in a tea bag. I think she converted just about everyone in the room that real tea was always better than what you get in a bag. Then we learned about whisky blending.
The interesting thing I learned about Johnny Walker was the inclusion of a grain malt in with the normal malts. Grain malt is quite different and not my favourite but this one wasn’t too bad and of all of the whisky which were used to create Johnny Walker, all of them seemed to me to be drinkable on their own. None of the whisky seemed to me to need to be in a blend making the resulting product even better. There were sweet, floral and of course a smoky one which then, for me, dominates the taste.
As someone who focuses on chocolate tasting, I’m fascinated by the ability of folk to pick out the various flavours in any whisky. The alcohol for me makes it a challenge but I know most of the notes come from the nose as well as the taste. This was a fascinating way to learn about a blended whisky and taught me that unlike my husband’s admonishment, it isn’t the poorest whisky going into a blend – it seems to me the best.