Johnnie Walker’s Latest ‘Blue Label’ Release Dropped — Here’s Your Essential Guide

This article is part of a series of luxury spirits articles sponsored by Diageo.

Yes, Johnnie Walker is an exceptional whisky. But it is so much more than that. It is a cultural phenomenon. The brand’s iconic “Striding Man” logo is instantly recognizable behind the world’s best bars. Its gently tapered bottles line fine liquor stores from Beijing to Buenos Aires. You’re never surprised wherever or whenever you find it. This is, after all, the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky. Its enduring success is built upon universal appeal: There is a label for every level of liquor aficionado. And for the seasoned connoisseur, that is undoubtedly Blue Label. So if you’re shopping for an avid spirits enthusiast this holiday season, look no further than Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare,  a special blend part of a limited-edition series that combines the rarest whiskies from the unparalleled Johnnie Walker reserves.

Since its initial release in 1992, Johnnie Walker Blue Label has become synonymous with luxury blended Scotch whisky. It represents a meticulous assembly of prized malt and grain whiskies sourced from every corner of Scotland, forming a final liquid even greater than the sum of its peerless parts.

“Blue Label has always been about rarity and complexity,” explains Diageo Luxury Ambassador Ewan Morgan. “Only one in every 10,000 casks are specially selected to be included in the blend. Blue Label was originally inspired by Alexander Walker’s 1867 Old Highland Whisky. It was at the forefront of an era when fewer casks were available and quality cask selection was in its infancy.”

Walking one step further into the realm of rarity, Master Blender Dr. Jim Beveridge (yes, it’s pronounced like ‘beverage’) introduced the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare series in 2017. It started with the Brora Edition, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Blue Label itself and honoring the legacy of a now-hallowed “ghost” distillery.

“A ghost distillery is one that has either been closed or demolished and as such, makes it some of the rarest liquids in our inventory,” adds Morgan. “Ghost and Rare Pittyvaich is the fourth member of this very exclusive family, the previous being Brora, Port Ellen, and Glenury Royal. It will be available for purchase globally in October.”

And it most certainly won’t last long. Which is precisely why collectors and connoisseurs pounce. This is a very special, limited-edition member of the Blue Label family, comprising old, finite stock. Because these distilleries shuttered decades ago, once their precious casks have been exhausted into the blend, they are gone forever.

Master Blender Dr. Jim Beveridge introduced the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare series in 2017.
Master Blender Dr. Jim Beveridge introduced the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare series in 2017.

Thankfully, they are going out in epic fashion — a grand finale befitting a symphonic oeuvre. “I always talk about single- malt distilleries being of their place,” Morgan says, stressing the significance of Scotch provenance. “The same goes for blended whiskies, except you get a full orchestra rather than a single instrument.”

The “blend” in blended Scotch represents a combination of single-malt and single-grain components. Often, these individual parts are lost in the mix, sacrificed in search of some homogenous whole. Ghost & Rare, however, represents a meticulously balanced exercise in expressiveness. Here those elements converge melodiously, while somehow holding true to their respective complexities.

“When I tasted the fourth Ghost and Rare, Ghost & Rare Pittyvaich, I could almost immediately see where each part of this orchestra correlated to the individual distilleries,” Morgan confirms. “The fruitiness and red berry coming from Speyside distilleries like Cragganmore and Auchroisk, as well as the pronounced orchard fruit of Pittyvaich, which only existed as a distillery for 18 years. Then you move into the old single-grain whiskies like the demolished Port Dundas and Carsebridge, both providing the rich mellow honey and creamy butterscotch.”

In the prolonged finish, a whisper of smoke emerges — a trademark characteristic of the Blue Label sipping experience. Yet it’s hard to resist the supple, dessert-like aromas emanating from the glass. Morgan recommends accentuating these notes with a rich and creamy panna cotta, or even fresh blackberries.

But however you pair it and wherever you pour it, in each sip, two centuries’ worth of blending tradition will be showcased. It is as much a journey through Scottish history and geography as it is one of flavor. “This reflects the Walker family’s belief that neither whisky age alone, nor whisky from a single location, is enough to achieve the creation of an exceptional blend,” according to Morgan. “Ghost and Rare follows a similar ethos, pulling old and extremely rare whiskies from all over Scotland to create new and exciting flavors that have never been tasted by anyone outside of our blending labs.”

Now, for an exceedingly limited period of time, this liquid is here for you to hold and, if you’re feeling especially generous, for you to share with the spirit connoisseurs on your holiday shopping list. Retailing at $349.99, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare presents itself in a bespoke box of blue and gold — hiding the cobalt-tinged decanter carefully cradled within. A symphony for the senses, available only to a select few.

“The best gifts are ones where people who know and love you have put ample thought into them,” Morgan reminds us. “To receive a bottle of Ghost and Rare shows they understand that you truly respect and savor flavor and complexity.”

You also understand, of course, that it’s much more than merely a bottle. It’s a cultural phenomenon.

This article is sponsored by Diageo.