Johnnie Walker launches top drop with the price tag to match

In launching a high-end whisky, Johnnie Walker is honouring its heritage with the flow on effect of igniting interest in its other products, writes Sarah McInerney.

The John Walker is rich in many of the ways that count in the world of whisky - at least in some circles - colour, taste and price tag.

A limited edition blended whisky from the Johnnie Walker label, it is a tribute to the founder of the brand, created from rare stock from nine of the Scottish distilleries that operated in the 1800s during John Walker's day.

This includes some of the last remaining barrels from two that are now closed.

The end result is smoky, thanks to the 100-year-old wood oak casks it was stored in, with undertones of honey and spice. It goes nicely with blue cheese at the start of a meal, and even better with chocolate truffles at the end.

As Johnnie Walker's premium product, it packs a punch not only in terms of flavour but also price.

A bottle will set the whisky lover back $4500 and availability might be a bit of a problem. Of the 330 bottled worldwide, only 10 have been shipped to Australia and nine of those have already been sold.

The company's brand ambassador Jonathan Driver visited Australia from Britain this month to launch the product.

He has worked for the company for more than 20 years and helped launch the prestige Blue Label range of which The John Walker is a part.

"We are trying to make something that has elegance, sophistication, structure and nuance," he said.


“This is our chance to show off stuff that we are proud of. It shows off what the guys [blenders] can do, and there's a market for it.”

Driver said customers ranged from the ultra-wealthy connoisseur to the collector to the everyday whisky lover.

Two shipping families each snapped up a bottle during a tasting in Beirut. In the Dominican Republic, a Dutch restaurant owner added one to his shelves.

It's clearly been a successful branding exercise for the company, particularly at the luxury end of the market.

Driver said sales had been strong, even though it was launched during the global financial crisis, and there's been a flow-on effect of a 15 per cent increase in sales of the next whisky down, the King George V, which retails for about $1000.

For not much less than a bottle of the King George V, whisky lovers can try the top drop by the glass. Driver reported that Charlie Trotter's bar in San Francisco sells it for $US650 ($658) a dram. As nine of the bottles available in Australia have gone to restaurants and bars, it seems Australian connoisseurs will have the same opportunity.

The John Walker will soon be available by the glass at the Ivy and Rockpool Bar and Grill in Sydney and Spice Market and Left Bank in Melbourne. A spokesperson for Diageo, owner of the Johnnie Walker label, said prices were yet to be set by the venues.