The global unveiling of the second edition of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare collection took place at the historic Welsh Chapel in the heart of London on Wednesday.
Brand owner Diageo gathered media and VIPs for a special lunch and performance entitled Reawakened, when renowned actor, writer, director and producer Stanley Tucci read the ode ‘Borealis on the Bay’ in the galleried, Grade II-listed former Presbyterian church.
The poem pays homage to the history and spirit of Kilnaughton Bay, the home of Port Ellen, the ‘ghost’ distillery which shut its doors in 1983. It was written especially for the occasion by Scottish poet Jon Plunkett.
Tucci said of the experience: “It’s been wonderful to be part of the launch of the new Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare release. I’m thrilled to have been able to explore the story of Port Ellen and combine my passion for language and performance with my love of whisky.”
The surprise recital from Tucci came during a three-course bespoke lunch developed by award-winning Irish chef Mark Moriarty. He was appointed as Global Gastronomer to Diageo Reserve in a newly-created role in September.
Diageo Reserve – established in 2004 – brings together brands that are built on strong heritage, craftsmanship and authenticity that can drive the drinks group’s luxury ambitions. The Reserve portfolio, led by Johnnie Walker, accounts for 18% of Diageo’s total sales and sales have grown by +14% this financial year (to September).
‘A sensory journey of discovery’
With each course Moriarty – internationally known as a specialist in food storytelling – explored the layers of flavour found in Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen. Diageo described it as “a sensory journey of discovery”.
Johnnie Walker Master Blender Jim Beveridge led a tasting of the limited edition release – crafted from eight treasured whiskies drawn from the four corners of Scotland. These include five very rare single malts and three irreplaceable whiskies from closed ghost distilleries, with the highly sought-after Port Ellen single malt at its heart.
Commenting on the Ghost and Rare series, Beveridge said: “These whiskies deliver a fascinating glimpse into another world, exploring the inimitable character of whiskies from a small number of iconic, closed distilleries that lend something very special to every drop of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. It’s really interesting to be able to put a spotlight on the character of these whiskies.”
On the Port Ellen release, he said: “Ghost whiskies from Caledonian and Carsebridge add layers of creamy, vanilla sweetness while rare malts from Mortlach, Dailuaine, Cragganmore, Blair Athol and Oban deliver rolling waves of waxy citrus, rich malt and tropical fruit flavours – all perfectly balanced by the distinctive maritime smokiness of Port Ellen that lingers in the long and warming finish.”
Limited quantities for travel retail
According to a spokesperson for Diageo, the Port Ellen release of Ghost and Rare will have an RRP of about £275 (US$311) depending on the market. As a limited release, exact quantities are “commercially confidential” but the spokesperson added: “When each edition is sold out we will not be making any more of it.” A limited number of the bottles will also be made available for the travel retail channel, The Moodie Davitt Report was told.
Diageo maintains that only one in 10,000 casks in its reserves of over 10 million maturing Scotch whiskies has the richness and character required to craft a Johnnie Walker Blue Label product.
In duty free, Johnnie Walker – across all price positions – is far and away the spirits market leader in volume terms, shifting almost 2.5 times the number of cases as its nearest rival in 2017 (source: IWSR).
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen follows on from the highly-anticipated first limited edition from the range: Ghost and Rare Brora which launched last year. The Highland distillery is renowned for its smoky, peppery whiskies and, like Port Ellen, was also closed in 1983.