Booze Review

Whisky Review – Johnnie Walker Select Casks Rye Finish

IMG_6478A few weeks ago, while I was sweltering in the stands at a 7U baseball tournament, G-LO was living large at Pour-A-Palooza. Normally, I would insert some sort of snarky comment contrasting my exemplary parenting skills (I was staked out in the hot sun, all for a wee lad) to G-LO’s questionable decisions (a perfectly lovely day, and he spends it drinking instead of spending quality time with HIS wee lads), but this time around, I have chosen to take the high road as G-LO invited Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast to join him. After the event, Mark was kind enough to give G-LO several whisky samples which were just the right size for sharing. Last Monday, aka National Scotch Day (July 27th for those that care about such details), G-LO brought over the samples as well as a couple of “soon to be kicked” bottles of whisky to celebrate the day (Editor’s note: drinking on a Monday is both a good and a bad way to start the week).

Since 7/27/2015 was all about the Scotch (Scotch, Scotch, Scotch! We love Scotch!), we opted to review the Johnnie Walker Select Casks – Rye Finish. Here’s what I was able to find out about this intriguing sounding elixir:

“We’re considering Select Casks as an annual limited edition,” says Brian Cox, marketing director for Scotch whisky at Diageo North America. “By their nature, these are finite stocks.”

Select Casks: Rye Cask Finish was born out of Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge’s ongoing experimentation with different angles around the classic Johnnie Walker blend. In the case of Rye Cask Finish, he used first-fill American oak, imparting vanilla notes, and then finished the liquid in rye casks to add a spice component. “It’s fair to say the blend is generally more Speyside than our western island and coastal malts, with Cardhu remaining the heart,” Cox says of the whisky’s makeup.

Diageo plans to market Rye Cask Finish both on its own and in cocktails. “At 92 proof, it holds its flavor better and has more of a backbone when it’s on ice or in cocktails,” Cox says, adding that the whisky was chill-filtered to maintain balance and texture.

And now for our review…

  • Appearance: A bronze color that might also be described as Amber Honey (looks a bit like apple juice).
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: A little medicinal (astringent) and menthol like with vanilla, sugar cane, leather and lamp oil (a bit like eating candied treats in your grandfather’s study).
    • G-LO: Sweet and herbal at the same time. Cardamom. LifeSavers Hot Cinn-O-Mon. A touch of brown sugar. Cloves. Baked Apples.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: Chewy with a syrupy texture and sweet flavor upfront followed by some heat (it is 46% after all) and then a bit of sharpness as the rye finish comes through. The finish is long and mildly hot (cinnamon, not pepper).
    • G-LO: A touch thin and watery. Starts off quite hot with a strong cinnamon flavor that has a powdered sugar and wintergreen backbone. Baking spices and some light brown sugar in the middle with the spice still there but slightly subdued. The finish is both hot and sweet with a lingering tingle. The aftertaste is a touch herbal.
  • ABV: 46%.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: Multi-faceted and quite flavorful. This interesting dram matches the quality of the blend with the ingenuity of the casking. Well done!
  • G-LO: Quite a nice change from the usual Johnnie Walker. I didn’t love it, but it was different enough to make me want to explore it further. It’s worth a try.


Many thanks to Mark Gillespie for this very generous sample! 

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