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EXCLUSIVE: Johnnie Walker Unveils New “Select Casks” Project With Rye Finished Whisky

July 8, 2015

Diageo will debut a new limited edition Johnnie Walker Select Casks series of special wood-finished whiskies this fall, beginning with Johnnie Walker Select Casks: Rye Cask Finish. Rolling out October 1, the first whisky under the Select Casks umbrella is a 10-year-old, 46%-abv blend retailing at $45 a bottle. While a limited edition, Select Casks: Rye Cask Finish will be available in significant quantities in all U.S. markets.

“We’re considering Select Casks as an annual limited edition,” says Brian Cox, marketing director for Scotch whisky at Diageo North America. “By their nature, these are finite stocks.”

Select Casks: Rye Cask Finish was born out of Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge’s ongoing experimentation with different angles around the classic Johnnie Walker blend. In the case of Rye Cask Finish, he used first-fill American oak, imparting vanilla notes, and then finished the liquid in rye casks to add a spice component. “It’s fair to say the blend is generally more Speyside than our western island and coastal malts, with Cardhu remaining the heart,” Cox says of the whisky’s makeup.

Diageo plans to market Rye Cask Finish both on its own and in cocktails. “At 92 proof, it holds its flavor better and has more of a backbone when it’s on ice or in cocktails,” Cox says, adding that the whisky was chill-filtered to maintain balance and texture.

The launch of Select Casks: Rye Cask Finish comes about three years after Johnnie Walker launched its successful Double Black variant at the same price point. “Double Black continues to do very well, growing ahead of the Scotch category,” Cox notes. “We have a team of 13 blenders experimenting with different whiskies. Some experiments, like Double Black, turn out to be very much in the house style and available in enough quantity that we can make them permanent parts of the portfolio. Some are more finite by nature, involving research to learn more about different flavor profiles, aging techniques and so on. Rye Cask Finish is one of the latter.”

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