After a successful evening at the “Raise the Macallan” whisky tasting two weeks ago, Golda and I decided to attend another whisky tasting within Downtown LA. The Johnnie Walker “House of Walker Experience” whisky tasting was similar to “Raise the Macallan” in many ways. For instance, both events advocated social media by encouraging tasters to take photos, tweet, and check-in on Facebook. However, while I did enjoy “Raise the Macallan,” I found the “House of Walker Experience” more fulfilling.
The “House of Walker Experience” was more efficient and better organized. Having only two staff members check in a large crowd of enthusiastic drinkers in “Raise the Macallan” resulted in unnecessarily long waits. In contrast, attendees of “House of Walker” were quickly directed to one of a dozen self-registration kiosks, thus speeding up the process. This meant less time was spent waiting outside and more time was spent drinking and socializing inside. In addition, tasters were given the opportunity to have their photos taken and sent to them online as a method of promoting social media. In “Raise the Macallan,” people had to make the effort to stand in line to approach the photographer. In “House of Walker,” the photographer came to you. The only downsides to that approach were the lack of a backdrop stand and the possibility that the photographer might miss you. The backdrop stand might not be an issue if the locale for “House of Walker” was as fancy as where “Raise the Macallan” was held.
Unfortunately, this was not the case since “House of Walker” was situated in a large, empty studio in the Cooper Design Space instead of the appropriately named Majestic Halls. Intricate arcs, balconies, and tiles were all replaced by dull pipes and cement walls. However, some pop art of Johnnie Walker whisky bottles and historical trivia fixated to the walls did liven up the place. Furthermore, where “House of Walker” lacked in interior design, they made up for it with their spectacular view of Downtown LA. In contrast to “Raise the Macallan,” couches were also provided in this Johnnie Walker event. They also made sure guests had enough food and drinks to leave satisfied.
The “House of Walker Experience” had a much larger drink selection prior to the main tasting. When we first entered, the Johnnie Walker girls provided us with a choice of three cocktails: Johnnie Walker Red Label and ginger ale, Johnnie Walker Black Label Old Fashioned with sugar cube and a dash of Angostura bitters, and Johnnie Walker Black Label served on the rocks. It was difficult to choose just one, but with the exception of Johnnie Walker Black Label Old Fashioned, they were all available to us in the private tasting afterwards. Golda tried Black Old Fashioned, and I picked Red with ginger ale. Both have a citrus taste, but if you want something sweet, choose the Old Fashioned because the Red with ginger ale is more sour. The Johnnie Walker event also had a variety of food to match their choices of cocktails.
Despite “House of Walker” being a drinking event, their food selection was also impressive. Snacks included short rib with mashed potatoes set in a flaky crust, mini crab cakes with ginger and cheese, and more. For attendees who were still hungry, two snack tables were provided with bread, fruits, and vegetables with lemon and thyme hummus, green goddess dip with crudités, and kale and feta cheese dip. The kale and feta seemed to be the most popular since it was gone before I had the chance to try it. Obviously, people don’t go to whisky tastings for the food, which now brings us to the actual private tasting.
The private tastings in both “Raise the Macallan” and “House of Walker” were rather similar with some slight differences. Both provided us with charismatic, entertaining MCs to educate us on the history of their respective brands. Both had their various labels of whisky showcased near the MCs although the ones in “Raise the Macallan” were protected in glass. For “House of Walker,” we were given the opportunity to taste the Black, Red, Gold, and Blue labels. For a new change of pace in whisky tastings, we were also given a bit of bartending lessons. We were allowed to add water and ice to the Black to compare the differences. In “Raise the Macallan,” we only added water. The water open up the smokiness and flavors more, while the ice gives it a refreshing sensation. The Red, a younger label, is often used in cocktails, and so we were given the chance to mix ginger ale or lemongina with our Red. By this time, we would be able to taste the Red Label and ginger ale and Black on the rocks if we didn’t get a chance to earlier. The Gold is a centenary blend that has been matured for at least eighteen years that’s served in a chilled glass. It’s cool and also thick. The Blue label is a rare blend that uses a wine cast and dried fruits. In the end, I preferred the Black, Red, and Blue. For those who want something light for their cocktails, choose the Red. For those who want a moderate spiciness and smokiness, choose the Blue. For others who want something really smoky and flavorful (more than the Macallan 10 and 18 in my opinion), choose the Red or even the Double Red if you can find it. Before we left, we were also given a Johnnie Walker pin as a souvenir, but it didn’t take a souvenir to remind us how eventful our evening at the “House of Walker Experience” was.
While I do recommend that everyone try both whisky tastings if possible, I found the “House of Walker Experience” to be more rewarding due to their efficiency in registration, the various food and drinks offered, and the additional fun in mixing drinks. The $5 entry fee might deter some people, but it was for a donation to RADD against drunk driving, and it’s tax deductible. The valet parking also made up for it although whisky tasters shouldn’t drive to begin with. If you’re interested in attending the “House of Walker Experience,” be sure to check out their website to find one in your area.