Spirit, Sydney

Johnnie Walker Blue. New.

This year Diageo has decided to tell a new story with Johnnie Walker Blue.

Jonathan Driver, the stately and superb ambassador for the brand will travel the world to introduce a new bottle, take the opportunity to tell the story of the brand once again to their most valued audiences and perhaps most importantly, meet out a few drams of frankly excellent whisky.

My good friend has scooped me to much of the news on this one, and you should really read his post to get the skinny.

The bottle has changed, and that certainly makes me value my old botttle more, but there is good reason for a break with tradtion.

The world is different now, mere products have evolved to brands and the perhaps the best now, as experiences. Johnnie Walker wanted to improve on the experience of owning a bottle of Blue Label. Holding it in your hands, pouring it to enjoy and sharing a whisky, and the story with others. The design has always been full of meaning, it now speaks with perhaps a firmer voice.

The blue tint, still present but much lighter than the traditional bottle. It has colour enough to be visually distinct from the rest of the Walker family, while allowing the golden hue of the necatrous liquid inside a much grander chance of shining through and standing out.

The bottle too, has kept four corners. The solid base of blue tinted glass sets your eyes more sharply, some lessons learned from the Gold Label bottle are trotted out again. The Walker family is all topped off in bottles with four corners. A nod to a rather poetic historical intent, first exercised in much rougher terms and language, in Old Highland; the first attempt at a saleable blend that bought the best of Scottish whisky tradition, manifest in glorious flavour nestled down together.

Spiritually, the blend changes in every batching. Whiskies from various distilleries are selected for extremely specific anomilies, but always with the same intent; to bring together the best of four corners of Scotland to your glass. There was made mention of Talisker barrels lucky enough to exhibit a peppery character, approximately one in every ten thousand.

Little surprise then that this not an experience that comes cheaply. Many would comment on your ability to get a great single malt for the same price point, and they’re right.

However, those game enough to lift a dram to their lips will not go unrewarded. It is quite simply sensational liqour; Citrus through stonefruit to toffees and buttery caramel, it delivers a textural finish with the smoke of Western coast subtle but deliciously present.

You might be able to dismiss this as mere marketing hype. The claims that are made, these stories told, this history professed; they are all warranted by the whisky inside the bottle.

It is delicious.

Dan Murphy’s has it for $169.

Event, Spirit, Sydney

The Smirnoff Black Room

Last night’s hot ticket was the Smirnoff Black Room. Described on the invite as a creative journey through the senses, inspired by the essence of black.

I loved the tasting station, pictured above, with Blake Head offering up a great Mule sorbet to cleanse the palate and a sip of Absolut, 42Below and Smirnoff’s pot stilled Black. I’m going to another tasting next week, so I’ll go into some more detail then, but the spirit stood up well in that line up, the character and flavours really coming through.

I loved the hand carved, triple frozen ice cubes, with a slug of Black, a dash of Grand Marnier and a spritz of Orange Bitters. The copper cups for the Mules, the lemongrass alternative covered a little too much of the vodka’s character for my taste and the cloudy cucumber & appletinis were almost too smooth, judging by the sway of some of the crowd towards the end of the night.

I loved the room, the Aston Martins, the raised black catwalks defining the space in what is a very big venue. The artworks and soundscapes gave people something to do as they tried the various drinks on offer. The little tastes of food, especially the prosciutto wrapped asparagus. I loved hanging down the back, talking to the other bar geeks.

For me things went a bit too far with the Essence of Black fragrance, but maybe that’s just me. I certainly left the building feeling, well, indulged.

More images after the jump.

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