Ever the innovative industry force, Johnnie Walker is once again pushing the boundaries of Scotch whisky and has partnered with Japanese chef Kei Kobayashi to create a new version of a classic: Blue Label Elusive Umami.
Pairing Kobayashi’s intricate culinary style – which has earned him three Michelin stars at his namesake Kei restaurant in Paris – with master blender Emma Walker’s unbounded whisky knowledge, the new Blue Label blend was developed in the pursuit of capturing the taste of umami.
While the so-called ‘fifth taste’ is common in Japanese cuisine, it is far more elusive in the flavor profiles of Scotch whisky. “When chef Kei and I set out to capture the essence of umami, we knew we were taking a step into the unknown by embarking on an exciting journey of flavor exploration,” said Walker.
“Together, we wanted to push the boundaries of what Scotch could be and bring a truly innovative offering to the world of whisky and flavor.”
To craft the liquid, Walker turned to the ten-million strong reserves of Johnnie Walker casks, selecting just one in every 25,000 for the final blend. Each was selected by hand for its individual flavors, with Walker and her team treating every whisky as though it were an ingredient. Kobayashi was presented with an early version of the blend at his restaurant in Paris, with the duo working together to craft the final version.
The resulting spirit is far lighter than the original Blue Label beloved by whisky drinkers around the world. It is not umami in the sense that you would initially think (meaty, savory, salty), but instead far more subtle, with an initial fresh, saline palate, most associated with a Talisker whisky, prolonging into a balanced mix of sweet and savory, and a lingering hit of smoke.
“Umami possesses a mysterious quality that ignites our senses, revealing sumptuous taste, complexity and depth – and I believe we have captured this essence in Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami,” said Kobayashi. “The final liquid is a multi-faceted expression of what I interpret umami to be.”
“Creating a new whisky is always a journey and getting to do this in partnership with chef [Kobayashi] was a truly inspiring experience,” Walker added. “It was amazing to hear the chef’s insights on umami and innovation, which allowed us to look at our world of whisky through a new lens.”
The limited-edition whisky was revealed at an exclusive event on a rainy Paris evening in a hidden corner of the Pavillon Vendôme which was transformed into an immersive restaurant space for one night only. Here, guests were guided through an intimate Blur Label Elusive Umami tasting led by Walker, before embarking on a specially created tasting menu by Kobayashi and his team from Kei, with each course carefully matched to enhance the whisky.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami is currently only available in-store at the brand’s Edinburgh flagship, with global pre-sales launching on October 2, before general sale begins on October, 16.