It’s hard to keep track of all the limited edition Johnnie Walker Blue Label, but here’s one of the latest releases for you. The Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami is a collaboration between master blender Emma Walker and chef Kei Kobayashi. Maybe needless to say, but they attempted to capture that elusive fifth taste.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a carefully curated luxury brand, and I can’t help but respect it. To many casual whisky drinkers, it might just be the pinnacle of Scotch whisky. It was for me at one point in time. My first sip of Johnnie Walker Blue Label is strangely still edged into my memory. Not because it was such an overwhelming organoleptic sensation, but just because it felt like some sort of an achievement.
I don’t know what I expected precisely. A trip to whisky nirvana? That didn’t happen. But it’s a happy memory nonetheless. At the time, Blue Label was a whisky my buddies and I had been wondering about for a while. Now it had finally found its way into our glasses. Whether or not it was really good, almost became immaterial.
That’s not how I’ll approach today’s review. The quality of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami is certainly not immaterial. (Great segue, I know.) What sets this release apart from other Blue Label whiskies? I couldn’t tell you. There’s not a hint of information on the recipe. Then again, the average Johnnie Walker drinker probably isn’t interested in those kinds of details.
Interestingly, only one in 25,000 casks was deemed good enough for the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami. I say interestingly because traditionally, Johnnie Walker advertises how just one in 10,000 casks makes the cut for Blue Label – a fact that has always kind of made me chuckle.
I wonder where that number comes from. The marketing department, probably. Someone likely once came up with the idea to divide the number of casks in Diageo’s warehouses by the amount of casks used for Johnnie Walker Blue Label. And then rounded it up or down to the closest round number.
But anyway, that’s about the only detail I can find on the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami. Oh, and that it’s best enjoyed neat with a side of caviar. Sadly, I had just finished my last tin.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami (43%, OB, 2023)
Nose: Notes of red apples alongside a sliver of chalk, dark caramel, a tinge of orange zest and cured meats. There’s a whisper of sandalwood and oak spice too. Some cardamom, maybe even star anise. Taste: A creamy mouthfeel. There’s a subdued sweetness highlighted by crème caramel and meringues, but also gentle notes of ginger, oranges and aromatic herbs. Finish: Medium length, quite nutty, a touch of mushrooms and some crack black peppercorns. Just the tiniest tinge of smoke.
A quality blend that manages to keep my interest, but never provides that big wow moment. An easy sipper. Decent complexity to boot. Is it full-on umami? I don't know. Not necessarily. In my experience, there have been whiskies that managed to capture such an "elusive" flavour more than the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami does.