Blue notes


“FOR many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not,” said Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost. In the case of Johnnie Walker Blue Label (which costs upwards of P8,000, depending on the website), a bottle of it is a sign that you’ve gotten somewhere.

The journey begins in the blending, and on Nov. 24 we were treated to an afternoon finding out what goes inside a bottle of Blue Label, one of the whisky blends by Johnnie Walker, owned by Diageo.

Local Diageo Ambassador Rian Asiddao introduced us to three of the single-malts that go into Blue Label, namely Cardhu, Mortlach, and Talisker, at the Johnnie Walker Luxury Boutique, located in BGC, Taguig. The small boutique, decorated in plush blue, is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day until Jan. 14. Bottles of Blue Label can be had here, and can be customized with an engraved bottle or a blue leather tag stamped with one’s initials.

Mr. Asiddao estimates that about 20 whiskies go into a bottle of Blue Label (as opposed to the 30 to 35 that go into a Red or Black).

A little bit of history: when Johnnie Walker first started blending whiskies in the 19th century, customers found it hard to read the labels on the blends. They then began pointing out what they wanted by pointing at the actual color of the labels. Blue Label, however, was a fairly recent make, first blended by Johnnie Walker Master Blender Jim Beveridge, OBE in the 1990s (he has since been followed by Diageo’s first female master blender, Emma Walker, no relation).

In numbers, Mr. Asiddao lists down what goes into a bottle of Blue Label: There are 21 million casks of whisky in Scotland (more than there are people; a 2019 census counts the population of Scotland at 5.454 million). Meanwhile, according to celebrity Nico Bolzico, also conducting the whisky tasting that day, only one out of every 10,000 casks are approved for adding to the Blue Label blend.

Mr. Asiddao made us sip the Cardhu, the first distillery acquired by Diageo to be part of Johnnie Walker’s blend. This one has fruit and honey notes, and has prominent notes of prunes, grapes, and raisins. The Mortlach, dubbed by whisky writer Michael Jackson as The Beast of Dufftown (where their distillery is) tastes almost like a stew. Finally, Mr. Asiddao brought out his personal favorite, the Talisker, which tasted like bacon on toast. The distillery is the only one in the Isle of Skye, and is located near the sea (which would explain its rather unorthodox flavor).

Mr. Asiddao pointed out the difference between tasting blends and single-malts. “These are musical instruments,” he said, motioning towards the single-malts. “This is the orchestra,” he said, gesturing to the bottle of Blue Label.

The Johnnie Walker Luxury Boutique is located near M Bakery and Zara at One Bonifacio High Street, BGC, Taguig. — J.L. Garcia