The Life and Times of Evil E: Johnnie Stumbles Jun01

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The Life and Times of Evil E: Johnnie Stumbles


an occasional blogumn by Else Duff

Photo Credit: Suraj Baadkar

I’ll never forget my first real passionate kiss from my first love, he tasted like Jack Daniels.  And thus began a life-long love affair with whisky (and bass-players).  In college, my roommate and I enjoyed experimenting with whisky and were always up for trying something new or shall I say old. We really liked our whisky.  In fact when I got married (to a bass-player) and my ol’ college roommate threw me a bridal shower, she forwent the usual party games and instead had a ‘Name That Whisky’ game. I won.

So when I heard about a free Johnnie Walker tasting event in my neighborhood, I decided to check it out. The only time I’ve ever drunk Johnnie Walker was when I was on vacation in Thailand and Cambodia. So it reminds me of going to a bar in Cambodia and the disturbing image of lots of middle-aged men cuddled up with Cambodian hookers…and their bottles of Johnnie Walker.  However, I didn’t actually try the blended scotch whisky until I was in Thailand.  We went to a club with a friend’s cousin who treated us to Johnnie Walker bottle service. I must admit I didn’t really like it all that much, but when in Bangkok….

Plus if you’ve never been to Thailand, well I don’t know what it is about the Thai people, but damn can they be happy. Like EVERY song that comes on is THE BEST SONG!! THIS is the BEST NIGHT!!! Raise your glass of Johnnie Walker clink clink clink!!! This goes on and on to the point where you’re wondering what the hell is in this stuff??  So I figured I’d give it another shot or two.

My friends and I arrive at my neighborhood tasting shortly before 9pm and get in line. I’m guessing Johnnie Walker is not only aware of their Thai market, but they seem to be emulating it. The first thing you see when you walk up are pretty women to check you in.  I immediately thought of the Juicy Girls who work the red light district in Bangkok, it’s their job to lure you in. But here the pretty girls are luring you in to the House of Johnnie Walker. They scan your ID, ask you some questions about your drinking habits, and finally we are allowed in.

Well almost. Once that was done, there’s the surprise of a required $5 donation to RADD. I guess much like hookers, nothing is for free.My friends and I are each given a coin that is good for 1 drink before 9:30. WHA??? One drink and I got to get it fast? Well what was I expecting, it’s Johnnie WALKER! Not Johnnie Stumbles, Johnnie Hi-Kick and Pissed Myself, Johnnie Shat his pants as he crawled out of the Thai Red Light area. We get in line and wait to order our 1 free drink while I work on my Cambodian hooker signs that you have to throw when you are taking a picture; I pick a K sign for Klassy and start waiting for someone to take my picture. Time is short, there are only 3 drinks we can choose from and I know what my friends and I have all decided on, so when we get to the bar I just say everyone’s order. I need a Ginger, Old Fashion, and two on the Rocks. The bartender (all the bartenders are male by the way, women out front, men inside – oh that reminds me of Juarez tranny hookers) seems confused by my order. So I point to everyone as I repeat the order: Ginger, Old Fashion, and the Rocks. And then add “that is also the name of our band.” My friend makes it even better and says no it’s: “Old Fashion Ginger and The Rocks!” I add, “and we’ll be playing Crazy Girls every Tuesday Nite in May.” The bartender is not amused.

Alas we have drinks, we chat, peruse a picked over cheese table, get our picture taken (finally my chance to throw the K sign I had been rehearsing) and then it’s announced it’s time for the tasting and that we need to finish our drinks and go inside. But we just got them! There are a lot of people filing in, so we finish our drinks, go in last and that works out because we are in the back of the room, which is set up in a square formation with rows of couches. There is a little area set in front of each of us with shot glasses, a business card holder, strawberries, pepper, water, a dropper, and a Johnnie Walker pin.  I’m looking at the shot glasses and I literally cannot tell if there is actually already liquid in them or if the bottoms are just slightly tinted.

First off there is a short film with Robert Carlyle explaining the history of Johnnie Walker. Hmmmm why do I think I’m not gonna get the “Full Monty” and instead gonna leave here “Ravenous.” Then a beardy guy comes out to give us our blended scotch whisky lecture. We get to our first taste and my God it’s barely the amount of liquid a leaf would catch after a spring morning mist. I drink it, I lick the glass, I use the dropper to suck out every drop of booze. This goes on. He tries to describe each blended scotch – this one has a peaty taste, with a hint of orange and the sweat of poverty. This one has a hint of vanilla, with a smoky taste and the tears of kittens.

While 3 of the drinks are in front of us, 2 are served to us by the Johnnie Walker ladies.  Woot Woot! They walk behind us I turn to my right and grab my glass, turn to my left to try to grab another – damn didn’t fool her, they are smarter than they look.For some reason the man leading this tasting expects us to get multiple drinks from each mini-shot, I can’t do it.  Maybe my taste buds are just too damaged from years of Hatch Green Chile addiction.  However, the one male in our group seems to be accomplishing this task. He admits to me, he only takes small sips, and only when told.  He is completely under the Johnnie Walker thrall, the Renfro to their Dracula. And come to think of it their marketing was much more geared to men anyway so I guess its working.

At one point we have to dip a strawberry in pepper, taste that and then sip the scotch, I put on way too much pepper which leads to several minutes of making that face my cats make when they have a furball. This also gave me the idea of trying to photo bomb the lady taking pictures of the tasting, I yawned, made the vomit face, but not sure if a successful photo bomb exploded. (Please note: It’s nearly an hour long lecture people, I need some amusement.)

Between each taste there is a short video of pouring whisky, smoke, men in suits, etc. By now we have worked our way thru each of their samples.  Black Label, Red Label, Green Label, Gold Label and have made it to their finest – Blue Label! I’m excited to try this one because I’ve heard it’s good.  But once again the taste was so tiny I couldn’t even get a sense of whether I liked it or not and therefore have no future plans to spend over a hundred bucks for a bottle to see if I indeed did like it. When the microshots are downed, there is a quiz – what does Johnnie Red go with? GINGER!  Ya Ya, you trained us well. I’m ready for them to wire open my eye lids, blast some Beethoven’s 9th and show me films of violent rapes and puppy killings by people drinking Makers Mark or any other competitors’ beverage.

Finally we get to a Q & A. First question:  “I heard there may be a Johnnie Walker Double Black?” All of my friends shout out: “PLANT!!!”  A few more questions and we are all finally freed. It was a nice event, well produced, friendly professional people, yet I still don’t even feel like I really got to taste it. The one decent serving I got was the initial drink when we arrived and I practically had to slam that because it took so long to get checked in and wait in line for that drink.  A couple of my friends are going to a bar for beers, but I need to head home because I’ve got to work in the AM.  I get home and pour a generous glass of Jameson on the rocks.  Finally – satisfaction!  To sum it up:  it was a night I’ll always remember, because they didn’t get me drunk enough to forget.