Local whisky aficionados have good reason to celebrate this October: Johnnie Walker's latest limited-edition Blue Label masterpiece, Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami, is now available in SA.
This collectible blended Scotch whisky was crafted by Johnnie Walker master blender Emma Walker and world-renowned chef Kei Kobayashi, who embarked on an epicurean journey of discovery to pin down the enigmatic qualities of umami.
Derived from the Japanese term meaning “deliciousness”, umami joins sweet, salty, sour and bitter as the fifth taste sensation. Best described as a “pleasant savouriness”, it's a hard-to-define and alluring flavour profile that makes a dish or drink wonderfully moreish.
When creating Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami, “we hand-picked whiskies like they were ingredients — from salty, smoky notes to savoury, meaty flavours”, explains Walker.
“Umami possesses a mysterious quality that ignites our senses, revealing sumptuous taste and complexity,” adds Kobayashi. “The final liquid is a multifaceted expression of what I interpret umami to be.”
"Umami possesses a mysterious quality that ignites our senses, revealing sumptuous taste and complexity. Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami is a multi-faceted expression of what I interpret umami to beWorld-renowned chef Kei Kobayashi
With notes of dried fruits and dark chocolate, and hints of seaweed, Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami tantalises the palate with its beautiful balance of savoury-sweet qualities, leaving a lasting impression of sophistication and elegance.
“Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami is a testament to our dedication to pushing the boundaries of whisky craftsmanship. We believe that great whisky is an exploration of flavours and a celebration of taste, and Elusive Umami embodies this philosophy perfectly. It's an invitation to savour a journey of complexity and depth, inspired by the culinary world's most elusive taste,” says Thembeka Mgobozi, innovation manager at Diageo SA, the company behind Johnnie Walker and other premium spirits brands.
Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami is available for purchase at select liquor retailers nationwide. Whether savoured neat, on the rocks, or as a key ingredient in expertly crafted cocktails (see recipes below), this fine whisky promises an unforgettable journey into the realm of flavour.
For more information, visit the Johnnie Walker website or follow @JohnnieWalkerSA on X and Instagram and @JohnnieWalkerSouthAfrica on Facebook. Join the conversation using the hashtags #KeepWalkingSA and #JWUmami.
Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami cocktail recipes
Leaning into the dried tannic qualities of the whisky, this aperitif highball is bright, dry, earthy and savoury. Aiming to mimic umami's saline qualities, it is finished with a garnish of Japanese basil (shiso).
Makes: 1 highball cocktail
30ml Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami
15ml Everleaf Marine
10ml shiitake-infused Manzanilla sherry (see recipe below)
60ml soda water
Large Japanese basil leaf, to garnish
Method: Take all the ingredients and build over a column of ice in a 300ml highball glass. Garnish with the Japanese basil.
To make the shiitake-infused Manzanilla sherry: Infuse dried shiitake mushrooms in Manzanilla sherry for 4-5 days.
Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami is stirred down with caramel syrup and seasoned with umami-rich Worcestershire sauce to create a complex, mind-bending take on a salted-caramel old-fashioned.
Finished with a candied and roasted cherry tomato in place of a traditional maraschino cherry, this cocktail leans heavily into the natural umami-rich dessert flavours in the whisky.
Makes: 1 cocktail
60ml Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami
7ml Monin Caramel Syrup
1-2ml (2-3 dashes) Worcestershire sauce
Candied roasted cherry tomato (see recipe below), to garnish
Method: Stir all the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Strain the mix into a chilled rocks glass over a large cube of clear ice. Garnish with a candied roasted cherry tomato.
To make candied roasted cherry tomatoes: Prick vine cherry tomatoes all over with a toothpick. Steep in a 2:1 sugar syrup for 15 minutes. Place on a non-stick tray and bake at 230°C for 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool before serving and keep refrigerated.
This article was sponsored by Diageo SA.
Drink responsibly. Not for sale to persons under 18.