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Youngconsumersareseekinginnovativewaystodrinkalcohol.AndyKnottreportsonhowDiageoispromotingitssuperpremiumblends
By Andy Knott
Foryou,isitcompletewhenneat?Alternatively,doesacubeortwooficesuffice?OrdoesadashofH20stealtheshow?Withtheexceptionofthecocktailandlong,mixeddrink,theparametersforrevealingawhiskyinitstruestlighthaven’tstretchedmuchbeyondstraightup,ontherocks,orwithasplashofwater.Sofar.AcoupleofrecentinitiativesbyJohnnieWalkeraredestinedtoopenupoureyes,nosesandpalatesandexpandtheopportunitiesforexploringtheperfectserve,and,ultimately,extendthepotentialofourenjoymentofwhisky.Themostinterestingdevelopmentistheritualdevisedforthepinnacleproductintheirportfolio,Blue.MasterBlender,JimBeveridge,hasproscribedarecommendedserveforthismostrarestofblendofwhiskies,craftedfromthe35distilleriesandsevenmillionbarrelsownedbyparentcompany,Diageo.Forthisritual,yourequire:onebottleofwhisky,springwater,ice,onebrandyballoonglassandonegoblet.Generouslyfillthegobletwithiceandtopupwithwater;pourthewhiskyintothebrandyballoonglass.Method:takeseveralsmallsipsoficedwater;then,onelargeoneofwhisky.Holdthespiritinthemouth;rollitoverthetongue.Eventuallyswallow.Sucharitualtransportsthedrinkeronajourney,befittingofJohnnieWalker’sStridingManlogo.Butthisjourneydoesn’tinvolveeitherwalkingorfeet.It’soneofthesensesand,ultimately,themind.Theheavilyicedwaterservesseveralfunctions,cleansing,refreshingthepalate,chillingthemouth,alertingthemind.Itprovidesacleanslate,ablankcanvasforthewhiskytoworkon.Italsofunctionsasastarkcontrastofwhatistofollow.Placethewhiskyinthemouth,andBlue’soleaginous,thick,viscous,velvet-liketexturestunsthesenses.It’sasifyouwearthespiritasthewhiskyenvelopsandsurroundsyourtongue.Thisisnowham-bam-thank-you-ma’ameffect,butagradual,measured,developing,subtleprocess,asthewhiskybuilds(seeminglygrantedaheftydoseofcornflour)asitgentlyoozesandtricklesoverthepalate.Thisexperienceisnotjustabouttexture,itallowslayersofflavourtounravel,too.Whenthewhiskyarrives,themouth’spre-preparedchilledtemperatureaccentuatesthesweetflavoursprevalentinthefore-palate,divulginghoney,orangesandnuttinessfromthesherrycasks.Withtime,asthemouth’stemperaturewarms,toffee,dark,bitterchocolate,tobacco,nutmegandanunderstatedbackdropofwood-smokeallrevealthemselves.Afterswallowingthisthickliquid,spiceandwoodtanninslinger,furtherstimulatingthesenses.JimBeveridgeexplainsthesciencebehindthisserve.“Whiskydrinkersknowtheimportanceofwater.Whendistilled,alltheflavoursaretrappedinsidethespirit.That’swhytheydon’tchangewhenbottled;whenwaterisadded,however,thesetrappedflavoursarereleased.“Beyondstrengthofflavour,themostdistinctivefeatureofveryold,maturewhiskiesistheirthicknessandsmoothnessoftexture.ByaddingwaterdirectlytoaglassofBlue,themolecularstructurewillcollapse,thetexturewillbedestroyed,andmanyoftheflavourswillbereleased.TheBlueservenotonlyretainsthedistinctivemouth-feelnaturallyexistentinthewhisky,butalsounleashesitsflavoursinthemouthofthedrinker,ratherthantotheatmosphere.”Beveridgelikenstheprocessofaddingwatertowhiskyasakintoarainstormafteraprolonged,sunnysummerspell.Atthispoint,aromaswillbeexponentiallymoreintense,whethersoil,flowers,plantsorpetalsbeingbroughttolifeinagarden,orthatdistinctivemustyaromathatemanatesfrompavementsinurbanareas.Thewaterisactingasacatalyst,akeythatunlocksthedoortoaroomfulofaromas.Theseverelyicedspringwater,then,notonlysharpensthepalateandmind,normerelytakesthemouth’stemperaturedownseveralnotches,butalsoprovidesasubtlefilmofwater,theverykeytounleashingthewhisky’sinherentflavours.Thisdisengagementprocess,thisunravellingofflavoursistakingplaceinthemouth,asopposedtotheglass,allowingthedrinkertoappreciatethemtothemaximum.JohnnieWalkerhasintroducedasomewhatcrudermethodfortheirGold.Method:onefreezer,onebottleofwhisky,onechunkyglass.Placelattertwoitemsinformer.Whenbotharefrosted,pourwhiskyintofrozenglass.Sip,andenjoy.Althoughthetemperatureoftheproductandthedrinkingreceptaclewouldseemmoreathomesomewhereeastofthesteppesthannorthoftheborder,thereisasubtledifferencetothetraditionalmethodofdrinkingvodka.Asopposedtothequick,instantthrillofshootingthespirit,thisserveallowstheflavourstobeslowlysavoured,creatingasimilartemperaturevoyageinthemouthtoBlue,wherebyflavoursgraduallyunravelasthewhiskywarmsinthemouth.Ofcourse,eitherofthesetwoservesshouldn’tbereservedforJohnnieWalker’stoptwo.TheGoldserve,intruth,isnotnew,andcanbeadaptedtomanystylesofwhisky.TheBlueone,however,shouldbesetasideforthemostopulent,richest,HighlandorSpeysidestylesofwhisky,whichhavespentsufficienttimeinwoodtodeveloptheoozing,oleaginoustextureandmouth-feelthatcanonlycomewithage.Theseservesdoopenupthetopicoftheactionofwaterandtemperatureinthewholeprocessofpresentinganddrinkingwhisky.“Thedrinksindustryhasknownforalongtimethat,forinstance,lager’satitsbestwhenservedchilled.Inthewhiskyindustryourattentionisincreasinglyturningtowardsthewholetasteandtemperatureexperience,andtheperfectexpressionforindividualwhiskies,”explainsJimBeveridge.“We’rereallyexcitedaboutthepotentialofmovingpeopleawayfromthenarrowparametersoftheclassicwhiskyserve,introducingfurtherscienceandeducationintothedrinkingprocess,andextendingthewhiskyoccasionsbeyondwhatiscurrentlyperceived.”