Johnnie Walker Tasting Event

Johnnie Walker Tasting Event

I was recently invited to a Johnnie Walker tasting.  Surely, you have enjoyed at some point in your life the rich, smokiness of Black Label’s finish.  Maybe you first had some when you stole it from your Uncle Henry’s liquor cabinet; or perhaps that girl with the sultry gray eyes raised a glass in your direction and as you enjoyed the first sip and lost yourself in her gaze, feeling the slight quiver in your knees and the increased pace of your heart, you realized you had fallen in love for the first time (and this time you know it’s for real).  Now, whether your feelings were for Johnny Walker Black Label or for the girl, you’ll never put into words but the fact remains: Johnnie has remained a friend.  The girl?  You don’t even remember her name.  But I bet you still recall those eyes…

I actually first attended a JW tasting last year with my friend, K (how Kafkaesque, eh?  Perhaps this ends with one of us turning into a bug) and J (should I make a Men in Black reference?).   We had a great time then and had an even better time recently.

The tasting was held on West Broadway, not far from Canal St.  I would give you the address but they seem to shift around.  I guess they want to be rolling stones.

K and I (J could not attend this one) waited in line for twenty minutes outside the venue.  As the queue moved forward, we could peer in through the window and saw various tables spread around the large first floor space, which must have previously been an art gallery.  They took our ID and after giving us a full body cavity search (just kidding.  Or am I?), we were allowed inside.  We each were given a card with the Johnny Walker logo; it must have had a sensor built into it because people at the bar would swipe it and give us our drinks.  We walked over to the bar that offered Black Label or Double Black.   I ordered Black on the rocks while K got herself Double Black.  We sauntered over to a corner and looked across a table at a display case that had various bottles of JW from generations past.  One can walk around the room and look at the various odes to the extensive, rich history of the brand.  Last year, I played a game on an iPad which consisted of matching the individual labels with descriptions of their tastes.  I was quite pleased with myself because a nerd is always a nerd and I got a perfect score (what that says about my alcohol consumption I leave up to you).

As we watched our drinks disappear, we got up and approached a bar adjacent to the first bar; this one offered Red Label.  You could order it straight.  We were also offered the chance to try one of five Red Label cocktails.  Some ladies ahead of us ordered a drink called Quiet Nights, and given that the bartender had prepared about 10 of them and placed them in front of her, we opted to try this concoction.

“Liquid heroin” is how K described this drink.  I have to find the recipe for this drink online so that I can have an excuse to go buy a few bottles of Red (Haha!  As if I needed an excuse!).  I am not exaggerating when I state that this is one of the best, most delicious drinks I’ve ever had.  Delicious is a word I don’t think I’ve ever used for a cocktail but it certainly applies.  You can taste apple juice mixed with the Red, among other things and as you swallow it, the cinnamon flavor kicks into gear, a note that hangs in the air as the rest of the chord fades into memory.

We returned to our seats to watch an interview with filmmaker Jessica Oreck.  She talked about her current work which involves documenting the lives of men at work.  She talked about her experiences in Scandinavia.  I won’t lie: though I love learning about the process of filmmaking, I was enraptured by my tall glass of Quiet Nights.


Had they ushered us out right then, I would have deemed the tasting a success.  Good ol’ Johnnie Walker had some more up his sleeve and in his top hat.  We were led to the second floor where we were afforded the opportunity to try Blue Label and the new Platinum Label.  We lined up for Platinum.  We liked the glass we were given and wished they sold them because they would have had my cash in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.  We each were given a few sips worth of the new Label but it was more than enough.  If you aren’t feeling well, you should buy some.  Doctors could prescribe this stuff to cure whatever ails you.  The way Robitussin used to fix broken bones, Plantinum Label can probably heal leprosy.  The first sip clears your sinuses, the second kicks you in the butt, and the third makes your mouth go numb.  This is not a drink with which to do shots.  Even considering that step should be considered a war crime by international law.

A wall was covered with the digital images of various celebrities, a plaque espousing what each considers the best advice they have been given.  Bill Belicheck stated that his father told him to work in whatever field he loved, no matter the pay.  My favorite advice came from Derek Jeter: get a bunch of teammates who will do HGH and steroids.  I kid, I kid!  He said something about accepting that others may be more talented than you but never letting any one work harder than you.
Before leaving, I had some Blue Label and it was every bit as wonderful as the first time.  It’s the kind of drink you want to enjoy in your study as you sit back and bask in the knowledge that your fantasy football team won.  You want some to celebrate that you finally finished those TPS reports your boss had been requesting.  You need some handy when you finally figure out that guitar riff that everyone else said was simple but you felt was the Mt. Everest of note sequences.

Go find one of these tastings.  Bring along a friend or two and enjoy the wonderful array of libations the Johnnie Walker experience will set forth before you.

– Alejandro Armenta