Johnnie Walker regularly gets limited editions with a special theme. In this case master blender Emma Walker worked alongside Japanese chef Kei Kobayashi to showcase umami flavours in whisky. This Japanese word for the ‘fifth taste’ refers to a savoury taste that is hard to define.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label ‘Elusive Umami’ (43%, OB 2023)
Nose: a hint of ripe apple but also charred orange peels. This evolves into blood orange, nutty notes (cashew and hazelnut) and sweet wood spice. Dried porcini. Then just a hint of roasted coffee and tobacco leaf, or even a puff of smoke. Obviously umami is a taste, so we won’t call this an umami nose, but it’s certainly darker, meatier than other Blue labels.
Mouth: salted caramel with ginger and black pepper. Quite spicy. Apples and blackberries. Then the lightest hints of walnut oil, with dried grass, mild ginger and a gentle mushroom note again. Some chocolate and smoke in the background.
Finish: a bit short, but elegant, without any harshness from the grain components. Plenty of nutty notes now.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label editions are always enjoyable and I like this one as well. Indeed this composition has a mushroomy umami element. On the other hand I expected a more convincing or surprising amount of umami, perhaps closer to what a Mortlach single malt can offer. Within the limited Blue editions it doesn’t stand up to my personal favourites such as Legendary Eight. Available from The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt and plenty of retailers worldwide.