Johnnie Walker Journey of Taste
NEWS JUST IN: Johnnie Walker Journey of Taste has been updated with a review of their Spring 2006 tour. For all the latest details, read about it here.
If you happen to be on the appropriate email list and you live in a participating city, you may get an invitation from Johnnie Walker to attend one of their private Journey of Taste events. This is a free whisky tasting that lasts about one and a half hours. They hold them quite regularly in different parts of various cities. What can you expect if you accept one of these invitations?
Last week Johnnie Walker were kind enough to hold a tasting in a building about 50 yards from our front door. Because I had been designated driver for a previous similar evening, I decided we should try it out again. This time I didn't have to worry about how much of the whisky I would be tasting.
On arrival you have to stand and wait a while in a tiresome queue before they will let you in. They are very strict about the names on the guest list and they ask for a mandatory charitable contribution of $5. 100% of the proceeds are donated to The Destination Foundation.
Once inside there is a battle to get to the bar where they are serving cocktails; Whisky Sours, Scotch Martinis or a simple Black Label on the Rocks. A tiny buffet of crackers and cheese doesn't long survive it's assault from the hungry hoards fighting for a morsel with which to line their stomachs. But waitresses also wander amongst the milling guests, bearing platters of welcomed finger food like beef skewers with spicy mustard or mini chicken wrap rolls.
All too soon you will be shepherded into an adjoining area for the actual tasting. At this particular location, long benches reminiscent of a refectory were lined up, scores deep, in front of a projection screen. Guests were seated on one side of the bench only, facing forward. I felt like I was about to be given a lecture. I couldn't have been closer to the truth.
The tasting is dull! Just get on with it and let me taste the whisky, I pleaded with Johnnie Walker in my head. They show you a short film before a Johnnie Walker Ambassador talks you through the tasting. (That's if he doesn't bore you to death first). You do five have small samples of whisky in front of you. The first is Johnnie Walker Black Label. Next you learn about whiskies that taste of fresh fruits, followed by rich fruits and finally earthy smoke. They even provide a scratch and sniff card in case you aren't sure how these different things should smell. These 3 aromas identify the three types of whiskies that when blended together result in the fifth glass, a repeat of the first, Black label. It all takes much much longer than this short paragraph suggests. Just be very thankful I am not going to go into as much detail as they did.
Fred and I amused ourselves by drawing very naughty pictures on the Johnnie Walker paper place mats with the Johnnie Walker pencils provided. That's how the imagination runs wild when your are bored senseless, you have been made braver by a wee dram* and there is a very pretty picture in front of you depicting two perfectly round balls of vanilla icecream that suggest either buxom female or well-hung male body parts to your wandering mind...
You may wonder why we were attending this event for a second time if we proclaim to find it so dull? We actually went to a Journey of Taste at the Presidio a few months ago, and even though I had to drive on that occasion, it was so much more fun. The guest tables there were large and round so we got to meet some very funny people who were seated with us. Back then the tasting glasses were actually full. This time round they only put a small dash of Scotch in the bottom of each glass. As luck would have it, our Presidio tasting table had some unused place settings and so the non-drivers were partaking of double, even triple tastings. The slight inebriation that ensued resulted in some hilarious conversations, comments and witicisms. The Ambassador for our first Journey of Taste was a charming, funny, rotund gentleman called Stephen. He made the tasting far less arduous than his younger, more dashing, but decidedly less droll counterpart who was running the show this time around.
*Wee Dram: A euphemism for a festive custom in which you order (and drink) a shot of each whisky on the top row of the bar shelves, moving from right to left. Johnnie Walker Journey of Taste