Johnny Cocktail has been VERY busy!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Johnnie Walker: House of Walker Experience

In a Shot:  Took my Father to a Johnnie Walker tasting in DC and though we had a great time and my father learned a lot from it, I left feeling like I didn't drink much and watched a really long commercial.

When I first came into my age of drinking, I had heard different brand names spatted out by the mouths of parents, friends and strangers about what scotch was the absolute best.  During that time, I was young and I always sort of layered quality in three levels.  One was the scotch you bought when you just wanted to drink scotch, then came the scotch you bought because you wanted to enjoy something nice and then you'd shell out the big bucks to get the best of the best.  It was during that time that I would pump out the 230+ dollars to grab a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.  The youngest scotch in each bottle is allegedly 30 years old!

Now, I sort of see the Blue Label as a status thing.  People who say they only drink Blue Label are the same people who have wives that only drink champagne.  Narrowing your choices to only a few selections and not getting a chance to experience a very large and constantly growing category.

I received another email from Johnnie Walker (When I first turned 21 I joined their Striding Man's Society) asking me to come to their House of Walker Experience.  The big hint to the quality of this experience to begin with is the fact that it's a big and house name brand and the fact that it is FREE.  I brought my Father along who, bless him, loves to experience new things and enjoys a dram of scotch but has a palate and nose of a novice.  I thought he would really get something out of the who event and he really did!

We were to arrive 30 minutes before our scheduled meeting at the Atlantic Video for the Arts in Washington DC.  When we did arrive we were early enough to look behind us and see the massive line of people and were thankful we followed instructions.  While waiting in the line, my father and I were approached by young woman in tiny black cocktail dresses asking us about our favorite scotches and what other drinks we enjoy and how often do we drink and all this.  Dad was more or less honest and I lied through my teeth and told them my all things and everythings were Johnnie Walker.  They asked for MY email, Dad however got a thank you. 

After finishing the questioner part of our adventure we were given a little gold token (both my Father and I wanted to keep as a souvenir) and asked to step into the cocktail lounge for drinks and light hors d'oeuvres.  The room was dark, music was loud and the black lights led me to believe we were more in a night club than a lounge.  The token purchased a free Jonnie Walker based cocktail.  They made "John Collins", a really sweet and fruit salad version of an old fashioned topped with club soda, scotch straight or a rusty nail.  Well, being ignorant and thinking about the Rusty Nails I make at home, I ordered that one which ended up being a premade drink in a pitcher that had to have been nothing but Drambui on the rocks while Dad got a tall glass of Black Label on the rocks the same size as my drink! We were given tiny hamburgers, reubens and meat, cheese and fruit plates.

After a while we were asked to head down to the tasting room where we walked into a seminar room with giant projection screens circling long white seats and tables where we were shuffled into our own spots.  Each spot had a plate with a display for the different colors of the Johnnie stable, missing the last three.  There was a pin and a business card holder, ice, water, water dropper, salt/pepper and strawberries.

Our Whisky Master and Host, Steve showed us videos color based on each scotch and an opening video with Robert Carlyle from Locked Stocked and 2 Smoking Barrels that was done in one shot and was actually a really impressive video.  Check out the Johnnie Walker Opening Video!

Ultimately we were walked through the different colors of Johnnie's rainbow, starting with Black expressing how this label is how it all started.  The red expressed fun and light for mixing and a cheaper price scotch.  The Gold Label was next and was recommended to be kept in our freezer to fully express that creamy texture this older scotch blend has (Showcasing it's potential texture and not it's potential flavor).  The green is their version of the single malt and has all the earthy and salty smoky notes one loves from single malt scotches.  When it was time for the Blue Label to come out, the room was lit a dark blue and the host called out like we were in a concert and the head liner was about to arrive "What did you come here for?" "Blue Label!!!" "Are you ready for the Blue Label???"  "Yeaaaahhhh!!!!".  A little too youthful I think for scotches and tastings but fun none the less.  Served in a tiny brandy snifter, the Blue label is incredibly smooth and complex and without question recommended to taste.  Afterwards my Father and I left the group and asked a series of questions to the master, Dad asking preliminary how do you smell and taste that and this and we both gave the man praises for making a wonderful evening well informing and all of that then we headed back to my place for cigars.

My final say is that the Scotch tasting has such potential to really be a personal and wonderfully engaging experience but is left feeling like a really big Johnnie Walker commercial.  Tasted very little of the scotches and even in DC they did not have a discount priced bulk purchase of the products that they were clearly trying to sell.  They didn't even reopen the bar for further drinks!  They also didn't have any of the Swing from their stable which is the only Johnnie Walker scotch I haven't tasted and was the real reason why I came there!

My Dad and I had such a great time but the actual scotch and final taste in my mouth was a lot like their blends, wanting for it to be more than it is and not entirely impressed.


Check out this guy's version of the story in Boston four years ago

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