World Whisky Day
World Whisky Day marks an occasion that unites the globe with the love of Whisky. But what makes Whisky—and Scotch Whisky in particular—so popular around the world? We ask Jim Beveridge, the revered Master Blender at Johnnie Walker, about his love of Scotch and why it appeals to bartenders and customers alike.
Q. Can you tell us a little about the journey that brought you to the position of Johnnie Walker Master Blender?
A. I joined the company straight out of university in 1979. Having studied chemistry, I saw how you could apply science to Scotch Whisky. I began as a flavor chemist, working with Malt and Grain whisky and understanding how they mature in the wood, before I took off the lab coat and started moving towards the blending table and became Master Blender.
It’s an incredibly rewarding job to work with an iconic blended Scotch Whisky—it’s something which I and our small team of Johnnie Walker blenders really love. In the Blender’s Rooms in Scotland we are very conscious that we’re upholding a tradition that goes back almost 200 years to our founder, John Walker. He began it all by creating flavors that his customers wanted more of.
Actually, what we do as blenders is, in many ways, similar to what bartenders do. One of a bartender’s aims is to make great-tasting drinks for their customers, and that’s our goal too. Most of all, like bartenders around the world, we love what we do and every day we strive to put joy into every drop of Whisky we blend.
Q. What is the appeal of Johnnie Walker and why is it so popular around the world?
A. I’d sum it up as quality, consistency and versatility. In Johnnie Walker we have access to Whisky distilleries in every part of Scotland – from the delicate fragrant malts of Speyside, the fruity malts of the Highlands, magnificent smoky Whiskies from the Scottish islands, and creamy, smooth Lowland grain whiskies.
Johnnie Walker is loved for it’s big, bold flavors, with its signature smokiness which comes from Island malts, present to some degree or other in all our blends.
As blenders we think from the bar back, creating blends that bartenders love to work with and their customers love to drink. When bartenders want to create a great drink, they really think about the aromas, flavors and experiences they can give their customers. When we’re blending Scotch, we’re thinking exactly the same way, and we’re constantly experimenting to understand how we can influence flavor. In fact, at any one time we have many experiments underway, so I think we share the same passion for our craft as bartenders do for theirs.
Q. So it’s the blending that makes Johnnie Walker what it is?
It always starts with the Whiskies. Their character is formed by a huge range of craftspeople, from the farmers who grow the barley, to the distillers who produce the individual character of each distillery’s Whisky, to the coopers who work with the wood in which the Whisky matures. It’s a hugely complex craft and we as blenders at Johnnie Walker have access to stocks of some eight million casks of Whisky, that’s more casks than there are people in Scotland.
Each of our Johnnie Walker blends is created to give consumers a different experience and to give bartenders choices in creating great drinks for them. We want to use the art of blending to deliver versatile Whiskies that cut through, that complement or amplify mixers and garnishes, and create outstanding cocktails, long drinks and flavor experiences.
Take Johnnie Walker Red Label—the world’s most popular blended Scotch - as an example. It’s created from up to 35 Malt and Grain Whiskies from all over Scotland to create a big flavored, versatile Scotch that goes wonderfully well with mixers, so it’s perfect for bartenders to use in long drinks.
Our iconic deluxe blended Scotch—Johnnie Walker Black Label —shares that element of versatility. It features more than 30 Malt and Grain Whiskies from some of the best distilleries in the world, each matured for a minimum of 12 years for an unparalleled depth of classic Johnnie Walker big, bold flavors.
Q. How have cocktails influenced Johnnie Walker or vice versa? Do cocktails help reach new drinkers?
A. Cocktails are a great way to explore the wonderful flavors of Johnnie Walker and as blenders we’re really interested to see how bartenders are working with those flavors to create new experiences, as well as to perfect and augment classic Scotch-based cocktails. I think sometimes that Scotch is seen only as a spirit to be drunk neat or just with a little water. While that is the case with some high-end blends, Johnnie Walker has always been blended with mixability in mind.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is a great example of that. I wanted to create a smooth and luxurious blend that had layers of flavor from vibrant malt and grain whiskies. I choose whiskies from my Reserve for that vibrancy of flavors with a view to creating a blend that is ideal for an indulgent Scotch-based cocktail. Its flavors unfold in waves, with rich fruit and vanilla alongside spicy and sweet woody notes and subtle smokiness. Each of those flavors works amazingly well with a cocktail and when I visit bars around the world I find that bartenders really enjoy working with Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve – and cocktail fans appreciate the great flavor combinations that can be produced.
Q. What is the importance of World Whisky Day to bartenders? Why should they care?
A. Of all the Whiskies in the world, Scotch is the favorite—totally unmatched in its variety of tastes, textures and flavors. World Whisky Day is an opportunity for bartenders to demonstrate their great skills to create Scotch-based drinks that delight customers old and new. I know that bartenders really care about their craft; World Whisky Day is the ideal moment for them to show off their talents and to share the great flavors of Johnnie Walker with the world.
Celebrate World Whisky Day with these favorite Johnnie Walker serves.
JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL & GINGER ALE
A spicy and fiery long drink—Johnnie Walker Red Label served with ginger ale, over ice.
1.5 oz. JOHNNIE WALKER® Red Label
6.5 oz. ginger ale
METHOD: Into a highball glass, pour JOHNNIE WALKER Red Label into a highball glass. Fill up the glass three-quarters of the way with ice and top up with ginger ale. Garnish with a slice of lemon.
JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL & SODA
Johnnie Walker Black Label served with soda for a smoky, rich drink with a slightly dry finish.
- 1.5 oz. JOHNNIE WALKER® Black Label
- 6.5 oz. soda water
METHOD: Into a highball glass, pour JOHNNIE WALKER Black Label into a highball glass.Fill the glass three-quarters of the way with ice. Top up with soda.
Enjoy Johnnie Walker Red Label with mint leaves, lemon wedges and a little sugar.
- 1.75 oz. JOHNNIE WALKER® Red Label
- .25 oz. simple syrup
- 5 oz. Soda water
- 8 Mint leaves
- 3 Lemon slices
METHOD: Fill a highball glass with cubed ice. Add all ingredients (keep one of the lemon slices as garnish) Stir briefly and top with ice as needed. Garnish with lemon slice.
(*One standard drink contains 0.6 oz. fluid ounces of alcohol)
The JOHNNIE WALKER, RED LABEL, BLACK LABEL and GOLD LABEL RESERVE words and logos are trademarks © Diageo 2016