A story: I'll forever remember watching the 2016 Cubs-Indians world series with my dad. I had no dog in the fight, but as dad said, "Cubs fans are obnoxious." That was as good enough of a reason for me to root against them.
From the hoots and hollers of the peanut gallery of Cubs fans in the restaurant, things seemed like a lock in the 8th inning. Things got more interesting one inning later when the Indians tied things up and a hush fell over the Cubs fans in our restaurant. Then—no kidding—the clouds gathered and it started raining in the stadium. I turned to dad, smiling. "I get it," I said. "We're rooting for the bad guys." I didn't care about baseball at all that season, but there I was, fingers crossed, dimly hoping that the mythology of the Cubs curse would have just a little more permanence. Non-obnoxious Cubs fans, don't hold it against me, but come on: when do you get the chance to root for a curse?
Maybe unsurprisingly, I'm here rooting for Diageo: the Johnnie Walker conglomerate—and the largest liquor distribution company on planet earth—who many credit with the adulteration of scotch whisky as we know it. There isn't anything they haven't done for a buck, from adding artificial color, chill-filtering their whiskies, not being forthcoming with the composition of their blends, and making a 40% ABV bottling strength de rigeur throughout the industry.
But you know what? Products like this illustrate that Diageo has a very good idea of what its doing and can bring products to market that I think are very successful. I don't want to be too hyperbolic, but the Johnnie Walker Blender's Batch: Triple Grain American Oak (note: what a goddamned mouthful) ticks precisely all of the boxes I look for in a blend, and represents another reason why it's hard for me to hate Diageo in an all-the-time-always sense.
The balancing act really lies in positioning the blend between three points of a triangle. There's creamy, fruity sweetness, some mouth-watering grain and malt, and some peat to provide backbone and intrigue. As far as the fruit goes, peach and nectarine were the dominant flavors to me, but it always felt held in balance.
Normally I'm not the biggest fan of peat and light fruit as a combination, but this is proof enough that it can work. Here, smoke adds just the slightest bit of intrigue without turning everything into a pile of smoldering ash. There's a very sweet arrival that allows the malt and cereal to grip hard in the development, and then the peat provides for a graceful finish. Having tasted the JW: Triple Grain, my friend Adam contended it was better than Compass Box's Asyla, and I'm inclined to agree.
Of course, we don't get the whole banana. This stuff is age stated, though at the bare minimum of ten years. We have a slightly higher bottling strength at a still-anemic 41.3% ABV. While we're told a whole three whiskies that go into the final composition, the remaining whiskies and their relative volume are completely unknown as per Johnnie Walker's usual. Would I like this information? Absolutely. Do I need it to enjoy the bottle? No.
So, true: Diageo probably could have tried harder to appeal to the indie kids. But at a $30 price point, I think this is a fair deal in terms of what we get for what we pay for, and I applaud the meticulousness in crafting something that's capable of courting die-hard single malt drinkers. It isn't quite my favorite blend, but I'll be damned if the bottle doesn't seem well considered from a brand extension standpoint. Like some of the other entries in the "Blender's Batch" series, this product probably has a limited shelf life, so while it's here I'd say it's very much worth trying.
Even if the name of this particular product happens to be longer than the entire first act of The Deer Hunter.