When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting. Jon Kabat-Zinn was the first to utter this phrase. I had never even heard of him and to tell the truth, I still don’t know who he is. However, I have a feeling he’s right because I came across his phrase one afternoon precisely when I was trying to relieve my own boredom by looking up witty quotes.
Boredom is perhaps the father of great discoveries – and of small ones too. It was sheer boredom that made me watch Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz for fifteen long hours. It was boredom that taught me (with the help of the internet) that hippo milk is pink, that octopuses have three hearts and that Oxford University is older than the Aztec Empire. Yet one of the most interesting discoveries that boredom has afforded me lately is about the caviar of the Albino Beluga Sturgeon.
Albino Beluga Sturgeon caviar is extremely expensive, even more so if it comes from a variety known as Almas. It is probably the most expensive food in the world. One kilo costs twenty-five thousand dollars. This particular fish lives in the Caspian Sea and is very rare and its eggs (caviar) are obtained only from females more than a century old. That’s right, the Sturgeon has to be older than a hundred. According to the experts, the older the female gets, the more elegant, suave and flavoursome, with a soft, spongy texture.
Although the recommendation is to taste it pure and lightly chilled, Almas can also be used in recipes. This is the case with a lobster and caviar salad, made with a slightly cheaper variety and prepared by international chef Gordon Ramsay. It is not however, only in cooking that rare, wonderful and luxurious ingredients are used. The world of whisky uses them too.
In the case of Diageo’s latest release, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare, this ingredient is the single malt Brora. The name alone would already justify and exorbitant price for any bottle, being famous for producing exceptional smoked malts and discontinued in 1983. Since then, its owner, Diageo has released extremely limited special editions using remaining stock. Raising expectations higher still, it was announced in 2017 that the distillery would be reopened in 2020.
In addition to the Brora unicorn, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare, resuscitates other mothballed or demolished ‘spirits’ – Cambus e Pittyvaich. The adjective “rare” refers to Royal Lochnagar, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie, Cameronbridge and Clynelish. The latter is the distillery that inherited its coat of arms from Brora. It might seem a bit of an exaggeration to use ‘rare’ to define relatively common malts, such as Glenkinchie, but of course, the concept is discretionary. Moreover, it depends on the casks chosen to make the blend. These distilleries have rare malts in their stocks.
According to Diageo “With the continued growth of consumer interest in both the art of production and the rarity behind Scotch whiskies, Jim Beveridge – Master Blender of the Year in 2015 and 2016 – has carefully selected eight invaluable malt and grain whiskies for this special edition, three of which come from ghost distilleries (…). Jim has always been fascinated by how whiskies from a select group of iconic distilleries that closed several years ago, can create the extraordinary richness of flavour for which Johnnie Walker Blue Label is renowned. From his library of irreplaceable whiskies, he chose some unique and striking aromas of these precious malt and grain varieties so that he could explore, in a completely new way, the unusual richness of flavour found in our crown jewel.”
At the invitation of Caruso Longe, who always extends the most extraordinary invitations, and Diageo, the Dog had the pleasure of tasting the creation at a special launch event that took place at the Attimo Per Quattro restaurant in São Paulo.
Compared to traditional Blue Label, the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare is much deeper, dryer and richer. You can taste the smoked element – Brora – especially in the residual flavour. The complexity is further accentuated by the higher alcoholic strength in comparison to the traditional version, of 46%. So much so, that the Dog is amazed but at the same time a bit melancholy about this release. It’s a rich whisky that shows all of Johnnie Walker’s ability to produce a super-premium blend capable of unleashing excellent single malts. If the traditional Blue Label had this flavour profile, I have no doubt there would be much less controversy about the price.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare is an excellent whisky that appeals to both the enthusiast – eager to try something with the precious Brora – and to the those with an appetite for luxury. In fact, it’s exactly for this reason that Johnnie Walker is the first name that springs to mind when it comes to luxury in the Whisky World. I have never had Albino Almas Sturgeon caviar, and I think I never will, but if I’m lucky enough to one day, at least I know the right whisky to drink with it.
JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL GHOST & RARE
Type: Blended Whisky with no defined age (NAS)
Brand: Johnnie Walker
Comments on taste:
Aroma: Sweetened with honey, almonds and pepper corns.
Flavour: Fruity (fruit syrup), honey, cashew and walnuts, floral after taste with a vinous finish. Drier and spicier that the traditional Blue, with an incredible black pepper finish.
Average Price: R$ 1300,00 (one Thousand three hundred Brazilian reais)