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We sit down with two influential figures in the industry to talk about Johnnie Walker Red Rye Finish – the first in a series of bold new experimental blends from Johnnie Walker.

Blender Emma Walker – the blender who helped create Red Rye Finish.

Bartender Jennifer Le Nechet – World Class Bartender of the Year 2016.

Emma, what inspired you to make this blend?

E: We were inspired by the big bold flavours of American Whiskies and had been exploring what happens when the flavours and characteristics of Scotch met the sweetness and smoothness of American Oak with a rye influence.

It took us more than 50 experiments exploring 203 malt and grain whisky samples before we hit upon what we felt was the right blend for Red Rye Finish. In the end, we used just four whiskies, including Cardhu single malt for its vibrant, fresh fruitiness, along with creamy, vanilla grain whisky from Port Dundas.

By finishing the blend for up to six months in former rye casks we found a perfect balance of intense sweetness, layered fresh fruit and spice. It is something we as a team are really proud of.

Jennifer, do you use Red Rye Finish differently to other scotch whiskies?

J: Red Rye Finish has a very distinct aromatic profile: very woody with spices and fruity notes. I prefer to use it in short, concentrated cocktails without too many ingredients. This shows the powerful flavour of Red Rye Finish and demonstrates the blend’s versatility.

Emma, when you were creating Red Rye Finish, did you have any particular cocktails in mind?

E: As our goal with Red Rye Finish was to create something from the bar back, we constantly thought about how bartenders could use this blend. We wanted to produce something that would taste incredible neat, with ice and soda, while also delivering something special in classic cocktails like the Manhattan. We were hugely excited by the idea of creating a world class blend and putting it in the hands of bartenders and drinks enthusiasts to see what they could create.

Jennifer, what was your most recent experiment with Red Rye Finish?

J: I mixed it with Amontillado sherry, a touch of fig cordial, few dashes of Spanish bitter and orange bitter, served on a single ice cube. The woodiness of Red Rye Finish went really well with the Amontillado. The experiment tasted like foie gras (I‘m French after all!) while also emphasising the fruit flavours.

Emma, how do those flavours come out in different cocktails?

E: I had the opportunity to take Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish to
New York to put it in front of some of the leading mixologists in the world. It was a wonderful (and slightly daunting) experience and it brought to life the possibilities
that exist with this blend. For example:

The Red Rye Manhattan is a new twist on a classic. You will get a real creaminess -
the cask notes and spicy flavours shine through in this cocktail making it beautifully refreshing.

As Red Rye Finish is smooth, sweet and spicy but also has those vibrant, smoky flavours associated with Johnnie Walker Red Label, it is a perfect partner for Ginger Ale – Red Rye Finish and Ginger has an incredibly refreshing taste and is a must try.

Another twist on a classic is the Red Rye Finish Old Fashioned. You get beautiful orange notes which work well with the vibrancy and spice of the blend.

Jennifer, what are the most popular serves involving Red Rye Finish?

J: We have a few really popular serves with Red Rye Finish at the moment. There‘s Red Rye Old Fashioned and the Boulevardier.

Emma, what’s your favourite way to enjoy Red Rye Finish?

E: During my trip to New York we visited Amor y Amargo. I tried a Whisky Negroni made with Johnnie Walker Red Rye Finish and it was amazing! Made in a 2/1/1 ratio (normally 1/1/1), with Bianco Vermouth, Amaro Montenegro bitters & Pimento bitters and lots of ice – the Red Rye Finish shone through, the intense sweetness was balanced with orange blossom, herbal, citrus and cucumber notes.

Jennifer, what kind of Scotch would you love to see in the next Blenders’ Batch?

J: I trust the blenders to create new amazing and impressive blends for the next Blenders‘ Batch. I’m a big fan of sherry – so why not a Pedro Ximenez cask finish?

Emma, what are you planning to experiment with next?

E: As a blending team, we are constantly innovating and experimenting – experimentation is part of what we do every day, and is part of what makes this job so enjoyable.

At any given time, we have hundreds of on-going experiments - focusing on developing and understanding flavours to accentuate alternative characteristics, such as those found in wine, coffee and chocolate. There’s even one looking at a very distinct point in the fractional distillation process that produces spirit with an intriguing, fruity, pineapple note.

Emma and Jennifer, thanks for your time – we can’t wait to see what you’ll do with the next round of Blenders’ Batch.


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