Christmas in July, blended with Johnnie Walker

johnnie walkerBelieve it or not, behind the scenes at The Women’s Room this week it’s all about Christmas, as retailers entice us in to see their festive ranges. Usually, on the hottest day of the year I’m scoffing Christmas pudding at the Tesco press day or checking out this year’s trends in tree baubles at the Liberty show.

This year I thought we’d bring you into the fold by getting you to think about your Christmas cakes this week….I know! Bonkers, right? But stick with me because it’s going to be worth it. I am inspired to make you do this because of a remarkable evening I spent recently, learning about blending flavours with Johnnie Walker. I don’t like whisky, but after an evening spent with Dr Jim Beveridge, Johnnie Walker’s master blender and a man with 40 years experience at blending whisky (we LOVE an expert here) I found I did.

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Dr Jim Bevridge, a quiet but brilliant whisky expert

Jim, in his softly spoken way, explained the amazing skill and experience that goes into combining flavours in whisky to get the balance just right, sometimes the addition of a surprising flavour acts as a catalyst to achieving something amazing, a bit like magic. ‘Blending to modify and shape flavours’ he told us ‘is a hugely creative and rewarding’, not just a case of adding A to B and getting C at all, then.

If you are a good cook, or a perfume maker, a designer or a mixer of people, you’ll know this already; often it’s the unexpected, odd ball ingredient blended into the mix that makes everything sing together. You could even carry this idea over to styling clothes, blending together just the right items and then throwing in something  unexpected to make the whole look come together in a fabulous way.

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I promise I didn’t drink all of these….

He also demonstrated how a splash of water into straight whisky releases the flavours into your mouth, a bit like when it rains after a hot summer’s day, the smells of the earth and flowers are released into the atmosphere with increased intensity. This was a revelation to me when we tried it, i could really taste all the smokey, peaty, tobacco flavours.

So, back to Christmas cake and our surprising ingredient is going to be time. And some Johhnie Walker Red Label whisky.

johnniw walker fruit

What I’m suggesting is that you put your fruit to soak in whisky, in a cool dark place, for the next six months to blend your own magic flavours.

When we get nearer to Christmas we’ll remind you to get it out  and show you how to make it into an amazing cake. The recipe we’re using is Nigella’s Black Cake, from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, I did it last year and the results were spectacular, moist dark and rich. If you wanted to blend your own version, by adding a few spices or mixing up the fruit, then we say why not? Blend away!


125 grams each of raisins, prunes, currants, glacé cherries.

90 grams of mixed peel (good quality stuff)

1/2 bottle, or more, of Johhnie Walker…I’ve used the Red Label, but obvs any whisky will do.

Chop the fruits together in the food process, but watch out, Nigella says ‘go slowly’, we’re looking for chopped, not puree.

Mix the fruit with the whisky and pop into a big tupperware box. Seal and tuck away somewhere cool and dark until December. Last year I shook mine up a bit when ever I remembered and it might be a good idea to label it, to avoid any well meaning de-clutterers coming along and chucking it out.

Roll on Christmas! For Christmas 2013 trends, follow us on Instagram as we’re bound to be snapping the odd interesting thing over the next few weeks! #christmasinjuly

NB, for those of you who already have Nigella’s book, you’ll see she soaks double this amount of fruit, then only uses half in the recipe. I’ve just cut the recipe in half for a one hit version.


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