JOHNNIE WALKER BLENDERS’ BATCH RED RYE FINISH
Experimentation and creating new flavor experiences for your customers is an exciting part of your role as a bartender and now there is a new innovative Scotch blend for you to use in your creations! Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch is a new series of limited edition blends that have been created with bartenders in mind and the first to be released from the range is Red Rye Finish.
We caught up with the Johnnie Walker team to learn more about this exciting new blend, how to make the perfect Red Rye Finish Manhattan and find out what the New York critics thought of Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish.
From Scotland to New York
It’s scary; pouring your heart and soul into a labor of love before offering it up to the experts for it to be [potentially] ripped to shreds.
But that’s exactly what Johnnie Walker blender Emma Walker did when she took her new, experimental whisky Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish on the road from Scotland to New York City. From the home of blended Scotch to the home of the Manhattan cocktail, it was a daunting voyage of discovery.
The classic Manhattan’s principal ingredient is American rye whiskey, so how would native New Yorkers receive a variation on the theme with their staple replaced by a blended Scotch?
And these weren’t just any New Yorkers, Emma took Red Rye Finish and put it before the eyes, noses and palates of some of the city’s most influential mixologists and taste-makers. They included Dave Arnold, founder and president of the Museum of Food and Drink and owner of the cutting edge experimental cocktail bar Booker & Dax; legendary old school bartender-cum-philosopher Peter Napolitano of Brooklyn’s Melody Lanes Bowling Alley; and bitters and mixology expert Sother Teague, beverage director at Amor y Amargo in Manhattan’s East Village.
Emma needed these cocktail wizards to try Red Rye Finish with an open mind, if at all possible – a feat easier said than done when dealing with personalities and reputations as big as those guys.
An innovative limited edition blend
As for the whisky itself? Red Rye Finish is the first release from the new Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch range – a series of limited edition, experimental blends created by Emma and a small team of expert blenders, overseen by Emma’s boss – Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge.
It’s one of the results of hundreds of ongoing experiments into flavor that take place at the home of the whisky makers in Scotland every day. Red Rye Finish was designed ‘from the bar back’ which means, specifically, that it was created with bartenders and amateur cocktail lovers in mind, so they have the perfect whisky at hand to serve neat, on the rocks, or as the foundation of a flawless long drink every time.
To achieve this ideal blend, it took more than 50 experiments exploring 203 malt and grain whisky samples to hit upon Red Rye Finish and it was created using a blend of just four whiskies, including Cardhu single malt for its vibrant, fresh fruitiness, along with creamy, vanilla grain whisky from Port Dundas. Red Rye Finish is a blend of both malt and grain whiskies aged in first-fill bourbon casks and finished in rye casks.
When Emma set out on her tour of New York, her inherent confidence in Red Rye Finish was mixed with a healthy dose of realism and garnished with a slice of cheery optimism and hope.
“Red Rye Finish is inspired by the flavors of American rye whiskey and I wanted truthful, face-to-face feedback on its success or otherwise from the people in the know,” she explains. “I was a bit nervous and it was quite a daunting task - getting the approval of New York’s local mixology experts for a Manhattan featuring a Johnnie Walker blend instead of traditional American whiskey.”
Johnnie Walker takes Manhattan
Emma’s trip was turned into a documentary film Blenders’ Batch – Emma’s Red Rye In New York and, in that film, it soon becomes clear that Emma needn’t have been unduly concerned.
It’s fair to say Red Rye Finish went down a storm with New York’s cocktail maestros. Dave Arnold was quick to point out that he hates Rob Roys – an old-style Manhattan made with Scotch – but that the Red Rye Finish Manhattan shocked him. “It’s delicious. It drinks like a ‘real’ Manhattan,” he said. Sother Teague backed him up: “I think about drinks the same way I think about food: season, occasion and atmosphere - and I’m really into this whisky.”
Most rewarding of all for Emma, bartending icon Peter Napolitano grinned and promised to make one for himself ‘in a few minutes… when nobody’s watching'.
And there you have it. Six exuberant thumbs up from three of New York’s toughest drinks critics and one quietly delighted Johnnie Walker blender.
“I got really valuable notes and insights from the guys in New York and plenty of wisdom that I’ll take back to Scotland and will, no doubt, play a part in future blends,” said Emma.
So, does she consider Red Rye Finish the perfect blend? “It’s the best of Scotch inspired by the best traditional American whiskey flavors but… does the perfect blend even exist? Can it even exist? It’s a personal choice, you can’t prescribe what’s perfect for others.”
That’s fair, you can’t, but at least you now know you can prescribe them a cracking Manhattan made with a blended Scotch.
Red Rye Finish Manhattan
1 1/2 oz JOHNNIE WALKER BLENDERS’ BATCH RED RYE FINISH
1/2 oz Sweet vermouth
1/2 oz Dry vermouth
2 Dashes of Angostura bitters
Cherry or twist of lemon peel
Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with ice, combine JOHNNIE WALKER BLENDERS’ BATCH RED RYE FINISH with sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and Angostura bitters.
Stir well, for about 20 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass.
Add cherry or twist lemon peel directly over the drink to release essential oils, and serve.
(2.5 standard drinks – 2.5 units per serve)
(*One standard drink contains 0.8 fl oz of alcohol)