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Walking Tall

Giles MacDonough
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 3)

At $25 a bottle, "Black is a status symbol for young consumers," says Hevia. "Black is seen as high quality in the range of contemporary blends." The next in the range, Gold, is a big leap up. It sells for about $65 a bottle, but that in no way deters American consumers; Hevia says the company is hard-pressed to keep up with demand. Gold has "a more honeyed, creamy flavor," he says, with some of the character of the malt from Clynelish, the distillery at Brora on the northern Scotland coast. It has only recently come onto the market, and so far there has been no advertising, yet its fame is growing.

Then there is Blue, which at $160 to $180 a bottle makes it an aspirational drink. Hevia calls Blue Label the "Nirvana of indescribable experience." But there is, of course, another factor: it appeals to those who want to show that they can afford the luxury of the most expensive Scotch on the list.

Both Blue and Gold compete with malt whiskeys on the American market. Hevia sees the two Walker whiskies as having a more "layered flavor" and a "wider variety of taste experience."

Johnnie Walker has earned his place in history. Winston Churchill was so obsessed with Black Label during the dark days of the Second World War that he painted still lifes of the bottles. Graham Greene has an inept spy mix it with White Horse, another whisky, in his novel, The Human Factor, and christens his blend a "White Walker." He dies as a result. In recent times, Superman drank Johnnie Walker in the movies and Harrison Ford showed off some futuristic packaging for it in the film Blade Runner. A humble grocer had shown us the way to make Highland hooch into one of the indispensible props of our civilization.

Giles MacDonogh writes about food and drink for the Financial Times of London.

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