It’s not Scotch and it’s not Rye. So what is it, then? How about just damn good. Johnnie Walker Select Casks is going to be a series over the coming years where their Cardhu single malt is aged in barrels atypical to their usual Scotch production. The first in this line is American Rye whiskey barrels. For 10 years, the product will age in a “first fill” oak cask before being transitioned to a rye cask. The result is unusual and unexpected, but definitely worthwhile. For the veteran whiskey drinker, it may take you a few seconds to grasp what it is in your mouth. Fans of Johnnie Walker will no doubt expect that signature taste, but even though we know it isn’t coming, our taste-buds are still a bit perplexed.
I’ve drunk far more Scotch than Rye, but I can firmly tell you this tastes like neither. Actually, it is more on the bourbon side of the flavor scale if I had to pick. The aroma is a strong vanilla scent, and the taste is along those same lines but just a little milder. The aftertaste is pleasant, and for 92 proof (up from their usual 80) the burn is delightful. This is not a potent blend, just smooth. Great for sipping neat, with maybe just a few drops of water. For something I would compare to a light bourbon, it is extraordinarily complex. There’s a lot going on here, indicative of the multi-layered process the distillers went through. Overall, this is a delightful drink that will surprise you, and I believe, satisfy you. People who only like Scotch might want to avoid this, but everyone else should try to come up with a bottle before it’s gone. As I said above, these Select Casks labels are going to be limited runs.