Whisky works best when it exceeds the sum of its very minimal parts. Its three simple ingredients — grain, water and yeast — have been known to venture into unforeseen territory, resulting in exceptional drams.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the sublime, but a universal factor is the combination of intent and innovation. Behind the success is a deep-seated desire to elevate whisky, backed by an inventive, sometimes maverick, method of achieving this.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label’s new Elusive Umami expression ticks both of these boxes. As suggested by the name, it aims to capture something fleeting and, in this case, an atypical flavour — umami — that’s mysterious and alluring.
The brand set out to achieve this by bringing two luminaries together — Johnnie Walker’s master blender, Dr Emma Walker, and world-renowned chef Kei Kobayashi, owner of Restaurant Kei in Paris and the first Japanese chef to win three Michelin stars.
Umami — described as meaty, broth-like or savoury — is classified as the fifth taste, independent of the four traditional basic ones: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.
[Umami] possesses a mysterious quality of being able to ignite our senseschef Kei Kobayashi
Hard to box in or pin down, it’s considered to be more of a feeling and, according to Kobayashi, “possesses a mysterious quality of being able to ignite our senses”.
The collaboration was meticulous and synergetic, with Walker and Kobayashi digging deep to draw on their individual skills, expertise and experience.
They approached the project as one would a new recipe; the range of available whiskies became a choice of ingredients for the final blend. In handpicking these, they focused primarily on salty, smoky notes and savoury, meaty flavours.
“Only one in 25,000 casks made the cut when we carefully searched our reserves for that new delicious umami flavour profile,” says Walker
The result is a sumptuous, complex whisky with immense depth. It offers notes of dried fruits, dark chocolate and seaweed, maintaining a delicate balance of savoury-sweetness.
But it’s not just one’s taste and smell — that are engaged. Grammy award-winning producer, Honey Dijon, has just launched a new track, Earthly Delights, created specifically for Elusive Umami. This sonic journey has been designed to pair with the liquid, augmenting the sensory experience.
Johnnie Walker Elusive Umami is now available for purchase at select liquor retailers nationwide.
It’s a whisky for those who appreciate intensity and originality, the ideal gift for someone special. Or for yourself.
This article is sponsored by Johnnie Walker.
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