In the past few years, a small movement has been transpiring in the world of mixology and booze-craft—to make whisky more accessible. It seems like a dauntingly classy drink, one most people think need to be approached with certain affectations, and enjoyed in a very specific way. Neat or bust, sip it with a Cubano, that sort of thing. Johnnie Walker though likes to make sure everybody feels included in the party, and their new Origins series makes you feel like you’re back leaning on the liquor counter of your favorite nightlife haunt.
The event launching the Origins series was held September 7, and was hosted by Nico Bolzico, featuring OTO owner David Ong, Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador Rian Asiddao, and OTO Head Bartender David Abalayan. It was Asiddao who guided attendees through the tasting of Johnnie Walker’s new whisky blend series, and Abalayan who formally explained the intricacies of two special Johnnie Walker cocktails.
The classic Black Label blend has a taste and fragrance everyone knows. It’s what you expect from a proper glass of whisky—aromatic, smoky, and a little intense. Sipping Black Label neat treats your throat to a little bit of fire, while having it on the rocks softens its sharper edges. Certain intensities are tempered by notes of apples and pears. “At the end of the day, we’re all about flavor,” says Asiddao, and that’s apparent not just in Black Label, but also the other blends, and their respective flavour nuances.
Lowland is an exceedingly gentle blend. From flavour to feel, everything is creamy and smooth, never seeking to size up the senses but soothe them. Hints of toffee and caramel come through if you focus a bit, but the drink isn’t cloyingly sweet. It’s a definitive nightcap.
Speyside is a bit of a gamble even for a brand like Black Label, which has never been shy about experimenting. Its deviant blends, though all have their own thing going on, never stray too far from the path of smokiness and heat, the kind of flavour notes that make you growl your exhale. But Speyside is so fruity and bright that it borders on cocktail territory—in a good way. Notes of citrus step to the front without upstaging the smoke. What you get is a sweet, floral whisky less suited for bearskin rugs and smouldering fireplaces, and more for golden hour afternoons filled with the thrum of cicadas.
Taking it up a notch, the tasting kit we had the privilege of sampling also contained two artful cocktails, named The Take Over, the Break’s Over, and Good Times, Bad Times, which utilise the flavors of Johnnie Walker in unexpected ways. Take Over, which has Speyside in its mix, was inspired by the Penicillin. But instead of ginger and lemon, ingredients like citric adjusted tepache, sherry port, and panda syrup bring out the blend’s inherent brightness and fruitiness to make an elixir that tastes almost like iced tea. Good Times is, well, literally a good time. A result of good alchemy, the cocktail uses corn tea, ripe mango, and palm sugar syrup to heighten Lowland’s smooth and creamy qualities.
What these cocktails and these eclectic blends demonstrate is that there’s no one correct way to enjoy whisky—in fact, it’s very likely that every way you enjoy whisky is correct. An eclectic lineup of flavour profiles also means myriad possibilities of mixing. Whether you like it on the rocks, watered down, or as a soda water highball, each blend has a way of accommodating your personal tastes. So go experiment—no matter how you like it, Johnnie Walker will make sure it hits the spot.
You can buy the Johnnie Walker Origins series exclusively on boozeshop.ph.