Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Diageo. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
It’s a rare treat to get to taste whisky from a silent distillery. Four at once feels almost unspeakably decadent. But, with a retail price of $25,000, that might be exactly what Diageo’s going for with their Johnnie Walker Masters of Flavour release.
Masters of Flavour is the latest and last installment in Diageo’s three-whisky Masters series, which also includes Ruby Reserve and Masters’ Edition. It has a 48-year age statement, and includes whiskies from silent distilleries Glyn Albyn, Port Dundas, Glenury Royal, and (the old) Brora as well as several producers who are still with us: Cameronbridge, Blair Athol, and Dalwhinnie. Just 288 bottles were released.
Master blender Jim Beveridge is planning to retire at the end of 2022, and this will be one of his last releases. It’s also a collaborative one, made in partnership with Malt Master Donna Anderson, who’s played a key role in the relaunch of Brora; Cask Master James Carson, whose LinkedIn profile includes the unique responsibility of “planning over a million cask moves per annum;” and Distillation Master Douglas Murray, who helped to open Roseisle Distillery in 2010.
When a whisky is this expensive, writing tasting notes always feels a little bit futile. How many of those 288 bottles will actually get opened and consumed? Alas, I soldier bravely forth past these existential concerns to throw myself upon the Baccarat crystal sword. Besides, with Diageo’s brain bank calling the shots? It should be delicious.
Tasting Notes: Johnnie Walker Masters of Flavour
Vital Stats: Blended Scotch whisky. 48 year age statement. Contains whisky from Glyn Albyn, Port Dundas, Glenury Royal, Brora, Cameronbridge, Blair Athol, and Dalwhinnie distilleries. MSRP $25,000 per decanter.
Appearance: A restrained amber tone.
Nose: Heady and aromatic. Sweet cantaloupe, honey and honeycomb, banana, and dried mangos are accented by a spicy ginger sharpness, rich leather, and just a thread of gentle smoke. It’s elegant and dimensional, the kind of aroma you just want to crawl into.
Palate: At first it comes off as extraordinarily–almost shockingly–dry, with none of that fruit from the aroma making an appearance on the palate. At first, I get ginger molasses cookie, oak, pepper, and dry spices that carry on through an extremely long and lean finish. The smoke is modest but somewhat heavy, like smoldering coals.
As it sits, however, this whisky really changes in the glass, developing a voluptuous sweetness and body along with beautiful flavors of buttery malt, mango, sticky salted caramel, brioche, lemon peel, and candied ginger. Smoke hovers in the background, present but not at all overpowering.