These days, I’m far less likely to be asked the question of what my favourite whisky might be. Instead, people ask me what I think of their favourite (or least favourite) whisky. It’s an excellent question because it instantly establishes a challenge—do you like what I like?
When returning from the New Brunswick Spirits Show, the airport limo driver started with the usual conversational pleasantries. Where are you traveling from? How was the weather there? Etc.. And then we got to the “work” part: “You’re a whisky writer? Really? Why don’t you write about something more popular, like wine. Wine writers get all the good trips!”
As true as that might be, I don’t love wine like I love whisky. He seemed to accept that as an answer, and then asked me about Johnnie Walker. Without tipping his hand, he asked me which Johnnie Walker is my favourite.
It’s a good question! It brought me back to a whisky tasting I did with Johnnie Walker last year. Johnnie Walker ran a program where they would send two brand ambassadors to people’s homes to host a short whisky tasting. A friend got this offer through Johnnie Walker’s PR team. That evening brand ambassadors came to a friend’s house, set-up shop, and poured us drinks. The pours were small, because as they put it, they wanted to make sure we could shoot all three drinks and still be under the legal drinking limit to drive. Makes sense.
We asked for a challenge, so they poured Red, Black, and Blue all blind. The game was, could we guess which is which? Johnnie Walker Red was easy to spot. It’s really not a pleasant straight sipping whisky. As a friend put it, if you’re at a bar in some remote region of the world they might have Johnnie Walker Red. If you really, really, desperately, want whisky, you might even order it. But chances are, you’ll pass.
So while Red stood out, many of us had trouble identifying Black and Blue. The drinks are completely different, that much is apparent. But for a whisky you don’t taste often, it was harder to pick between which was which. We made our choices on favourite whiskies, and the reveal showed that most of the small group preferred Johnnie Walker Black. I know I did.
Johnnie Walker Blue is the definition of smooth. It’s not edgy, because the Johnnie Walker Blue customer doesn’t want edgy—they want something that tastes rich. Johnnie Walker Black is the opposite. It’s balanced, and lovely, but it has an edge that today’s whisky drinker probably appreciates more.
I told my driver that Johnnie Walker Black is just right—it’s the compromise between Red (too rough) and Blue (too smooth). He turned back to me at a stop light, and gave me the brightest smile. “All my friends know I love Johnnie Walker Black. I have several bottles at home, often gifted. Sometimes, they buy me the blue one. I know it’s expensive. But I like the black best.”
He didn’t drink any other whisky, but he knew his Johnnie Walker.