The fifth and final instalment of Johnnie Walker’s Private Collection is sumptuous and complex. It’s a fitting swansong to the distillery’s ultra-premium series, which has released a top-shelf and experimental-leaning small batch whisky every year since 2014.
The Midnight Blend sets out its mission statement in the most ambitious of terms; to be the pinnacle drink of a pleasant night of whisky drinking and general bonhomie, to act as the showpiece of a social occasion, the summit that all the evening’s other whiskies are leading up to.
Jim Beveridge, Johnnie Walker Master Blender, said the age of the whiskies that go into the Midnight Blend makes for a truly special spirit but the quality of the whiskies involved elevates it even further.
“In our search to find the flavours and characteristics necessary for a rich, indulgent Scotch like Midnight Blend, we were very lucky to have access to some of the most mature reserves drawn from the four corners of Scotland,” he said.
“Each individual malt and grain used in the final whisky adds layers of flavour to the 28 Year Old Midnight Blend, leaving hints of fruit, sweet and spice and making it a wonderful final addition to the Private Collection.”
Beveridge and fellow blender Craig Wallace completed a lengthy, if not exactly joyless, project of sampling literally hundreds of single malt and grain whiskies from across the Johnnie Walker network to pluck out a handful to go into the blend.
At the glamorous Sydney launch of the spirit in the private dining room at BLACK Bar & Grill, Head Chef Danny Karam’s matching food menu skilfully illustrated how the Private Collection’s robust flavours could stand up to, and complement, even the boldest food pairings.
To this end, the light sweetness of the 2016 release, ‘Fine Honeyed Notes’ worked in harmony with crab and creamy salmon roe. Later, a peaty outlier in the Johnnie Walker canon, 2014’s ‘A Unique Smoky Blend’, locked in with the savoury flavour profile of Striploin Angus beef with charred onion, bone marrow sauce and smoked potato.
The Midnight Blend stood on its own, however, as the final, show-stopping drink of the night. Composed of whiskies aged at least 28 years, it has all the character and complexity that only spirits of this vintage can obtain.
On the nose, there’s everything from stone fruit to light smoke and the initial impression is of a rich, indulgent spirit.
The palate lives up to that intoxicating promise with a heady array of sweet and slight peaty notes, including brown sugar, fudge, chocolate ganache as well as candied citrus peel, Christmas pudding and fruitcake spice.
Ultimately, however, it’s the way the different elements meld together, the skilful balancing of whiskies reflecting the various characters of the fabled Scottish regions, that really makes the whisky something special.
Only 3,888 bottles of the Midnight Blend have been made available internationally and it is available in strictly limited locations.
Image credits: Anna Kucera