Johnnie Walker unveils a 2017 edition of its high-end John Walker & Sons Private Collection, which showcases the influence of oak casks on Scotch whisky.
The fourth edition in the range – called Mastery of Oak – has been created by Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge and blender Aimée Gibson.
As with the previous Private Collection releases since its launch on 2014, Mastery of Oak aims to showcase the Johnnie Walker “house style” through “one-off blends of rare and experimental whiskies”. The whisky is a combination of three unique blends, each selected for their ability to display different oak characteristics.
The first vatting is a mix of malt and grain whiskies that have been aged in active American oak, together with a “handful” of whiskies aged in rejuvenated casks. The liquid was sourced from a number of distilleries and was selected to add rich caramel flavours.
“This was the first conversation we wanted to have in terms of wood,” said Beveridge. “But we also felt it was important to add another layer, and that’s to bring in some distinctive distillery character.”
As such, the second vatting in Mastery of Oak consists of Highland and Speyside refill casks – mostly American and some European – that have been aged for longer than the first vatting. It is said to have a “rich fruit distillery character with a mellowness and smoothness”.
The third and final vatting consists of “experimental” malt and grain whiskies aged in American oak casks (mostly new oak) that had been toasted to varying degrees; casks filled with spirit of different alcoholic strengths; and ‘salt cured’ casks.
Beveridge claims that preconditioning the casks with salt allows to oak to evolve at different temperatures, and so produce different flavours.
These three vattings were then re-casked into blending puncheons before bottling.
“Every whisky starts out full of the promise of its distillery character,” said Beveridge. “Oak casks offer us an astonishing number of ways to differentiate these styles further as they mature, broadening our palate of flavours for blending.”
He continued: “For Mastery of Oak, we assembled some of our finest casks into three main styles of oak effects. Each vatting, brimming with complexity, was re-casked into blending puncheons for the flavours to combine. We’re delighted to have been able to bring them together to such great effect in the 2017 Edition, a sumptuous blend of oak-rich fruit notes.”
The John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2017 Edition Mastery of Oak is bottled in a glass decanter illustrated with rings of oak, which is presented in a wooden box decorated with swirling oak.
John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2017 Edition, ‘Mastery of Oak’, is bottled at 46.8% abv and comprises 5,588 individually numbered decanters, with an estimated retail price of £550 each.
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