Last night, our friends, Mr. M.Y. Tham of the Mandarim Chinese Restaurant, invited us to taste our first bottle of Johnie Walker Blue label, otherwise known as John Walker’s Oldest.
We gathered around 9 p.m., which is the time shen all good scotch should be drunk in India. You may drink your gin all torugh the day and be sick, or drink rum earlier in the evening, but never, never touch Indian whisky.
Mr. Tham ordered the Blue Label to be brough out, a whisky from the past, the best that canny Scottish minds can blend. It was handed around with wome ceremondy. The bottle was old-fashioned, designed from one of the earliest found in John Walker’s museum. There was a blue tint to the glass, and the label, of course, was blue, to distinguish it from the famous red and black.
The stopper had strings and tassels. Mr. Tham handed it to me to perform the opening ceremony. I quickly returned it, not wanting, in my accepted clumsiness, to break the bottle and run the evening.
“We will begin with large pegs, then we will move on to small pegs,” Mr. Tham announced. Then, with a regular measure, something we have never used before, having full trust in our eyes, the whisky was measured out and poured in golden splashes into the glasses.
Like true connoisseurs, which some of us may be but some of us are not, we refused at ice and the soda, and rolled the John Walker Oldest on our tongues and over our palates. And out in the glen, we heard a hundred pipers play. Or is that some other scotch? Be that as it may, as the liquid played in our mouths, we did taste the native barley, the aroma of peat fires and of waters from the running burns, and the feel of mist and rain on the highlands and of the oak casks in which some of the distilled whikies used in the blend have been lying undisturbed for more than 60 years.
John Walker’s heirs have not claimed an age for this whisky. Centuries of distilling have taught them that individual whiskies mature in different ways and reach their perfect pitch at different ages. Hence, their blender has bad a run of every cask in John Walker’s warehouses – the richest store of finest whiskies in all the high and los lands of Scotland. None of the whiskies is less than 15 years old and some of them are more than 60 years old. It was late in the night when we emptied the bottle of Blue Label. And this Monday morning, which normally is the worst morning of my week, I am feeling as fresh as a daisy.