Friday, 19 October 2018

A Johnnie Walker Stroll

It may be surprising to learn but before this tasting I'd never tried a Johnnie Walker whisky before, they'd just not come on my radar! Yes one of the biggest brands in the world, and yes of course I'd heard of them and seen their whiskies for sale but they just hadn't struck me as the kind of whisky I'd enjoy.

They have some great marketing, including this classic from 2009 a six-minute, one-shot short film starring Robert Carlyle, strolling down a gravel road in the Scottish countryside, recounting Walker's progress from humble grocery to global whisky brand -- all with the help of a few carefully placed props that vary from a wall of TVs and family portraits to a full whisky bar and a Highland Cow, all appearing along the road with impeccable timing.

Their main range is called 'Colours' a range of classic blends.

 Let's find out a little more about them:

All of them are coloured - to standardise them - and they are all the same shade of yellow gold.

Red : This is a blend of up to 30 malts and grains. It's a combination of light whiskies from Scotland's East Coast and more peaty whiskies from the West. It costs around £21 for a 70cl 40% bottle.
JW says: Crafted from the four corners of Scotland, it crackles with spice and is bursting with vibrant, smoky flavours – followed by a mellow bed of vanilla, a fresh zestiness and the Johnnie Walker signature of a long, lingering, smoky finish. Johnnie Walker Red Label is now the best-selling Scotch Whisky around the globe. Perfect for parties and get-togethers, at home or going out.

My thoughts:
Nose: Acetone, grass or hay and a little honey. There's a hint of smoke there too.
Palate: Watery to start with then a grassy creamy note with a little kick of spice. Very smooth.
Finish: Short smoky finish with just a little kick of spice, with a surprising drying note.

Black: Created using only whiskies aged for a minimum of 12 years from the four corners of Scotland. It costs around £29 for a 70cl 40% bottle.
JW says: Johnnie Walker Black Label is a smooth and beautifully balanced whisky with a distinctive smoky flavour, expertly crafted using an unrivalled selection of Single Malts and Grains each aged for at least 12 years. This is the world’s leading premium Scotch Whisky with a multi-dimensional taste that makes it really versatile: the flavours of rich fruits, vanilla and smoke shine through whether served on the rocks or mixed with soda in a highball.

My thoughts:
Nose: Coal fire smoke, citrus,  honey.
Palate: Smoky golden syrup rolls across the tongue. Honey, barley and green apples with a little spice follow. Also getting a liquorice note after a few more sips.
Finish: Again slightly drying, a little ginger spice, doesn't linger long.

Double Black: Johnnie Walker Double Black is a full-bodied whisky, with an intense smoky character and layers of spice. Strongly influenced by powerful West Coast and Island whiskies. It costs around £29 for a 70cl 40% bottle.
JW says: Johnnie Walker Double Black is matured in heavily charred casks and uses a greater proportion of characterful West Coast and Island whiskies to elevate iconic flavours to a new level of intensity. Johnnie Walker Double Black was created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge as a darker, smokier interpretation of the world famous Johnnie Walker Black Label. Though it may be a relatively recent addition to the range, Johnnie Walker Double Black is already a classic.

My thoughts:
Nose: Dunnage warehouse, old book store, a little maritime influence - actually rather nice, in a totally different class to the previous two.
Palate: More of the smoky golden syrup but this time the smoke dial has been turned up a little, lots of honey sweetness, some apples and pears, very drying on the tongue.
Finish: Again fairly short - smoky with a hint of honey.

Green label 15yo: Johnnie Walker Green Label is a unique combination of four styles of matured malt whiskies: Speyside, Highland, Lowland and the Scottish Islands. It costs around £39 for a 70cl 43% bottle.
JW says: Johnnie Walker Green Label is crafted from a palette of Speyside, Highland, Lowland and Island malts matured for at least 15 years – all perfectly balanced to bring together the intense aromas of crisp cut grass, fresh fruit, wood smoke, deep vanilla, and sandalwood. Johnnie Walker Green Label is crafted from a palate of malts matured for at least 15 years in American and European oak casks, to create a blend that is true to the Johnnie Walker style of bold flavour and distinctive smokiness.

My thoughts: I haven't tried this one.

Island Green: The unique flavour profile of Johnnie Walker Island Green is the result of the careful, expert balancing of our four signature styles of malt whisky, represented by Caol Ila, Clynelish, Glenkinchie and Cardhu. It costs around £55 for a 70cl 43% bottle.
JW says: A dynamic interpretation of our Johnnie Walker Green Label crafted using only Single Malt Whiskies from each of the four corners of Scotland. Johnnie Walker Island Green has all the character of a single malt, but with a richer flavour experience – combining notes of rich toffee, fresh black pepper. The maritime malt whisky Caol Ila provides the greatest influence in this stunning combination of smoke, sweetness and spice.

My thoughts:
Nose: Bonfire on a beach stuff but from last night rather than tonight. More orchard fruit and a hint or rubber - not unpleasant - this is quite nice on the nose.
Palate: Thick creamy smoky custard with a big spoonful of chilli - actually really nice - the spice builds up at the liquid disappears down your throat! There's some fresh cut grass, some orange oil and a hint of liquorice again. Really nice!
Finish: Long, for a change, smokey and spicy.

Gold label Reserve: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is created using award-winning whiskies – including fruity Highland malts and lighter Speyside malts for sweetness and spice, combined with those from the Scottish islands for a smoky finish. It costs around £44 for a 70cl 40% bottle.
JW says: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is a luxurious and smooth whisky, with notes of vanilla and dark fruit – a wonderful tribute to the harmonious partnership of Speyside and Highland whiskies, with just a hint of smouldering embers from the West Coast. Created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge to celebrate nearly 200 years of the art of blending.

My thoughts: I haven't tried this one.

18yo: Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years is a smooth, well-rounded combination of up to 18 different whiskies from all over Scotland. It costs around £70 for a 70cl 40% bottle.
JW says: Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years is made using whiskies that have matured for at least 18 years. Carefully chosen for their flavour and quality, these whiskies make for a wonderful combination of both classic and contemporary tastes – blending notes of citrus and fragrant almonds, with warm vanilla and a hint of tropical tangerines.

My thoughts: I haven't tried this one.

Blue: Johnnie Walker Blue Label is created using a selection of rare casks from the Speyside and Highland distilleries – including delicate Cardhu and Clynelish, warm, rounded Benrinnes, as well as Islay malts for smokiness. It costs around £135 for a 70cl 40% bottle.
JW says: Johnnie Walker Blue Label is an unrivalled masterpiece – an exquisite combination of Scotland’s rarest and most exceptional whiskies. Only one in every ten thousand casks has the elusive quality, character and flavour to deliver the remarkable signature taste. Johnnie Walker Blue Label is inspired by Alexander Walker’s 1867 Old Highland Whisky. It was at the forefront of an era when fewer casks were available and quality cask selection was in its infancy.

My thoughts:
Nose: A really dry smoke, lots of fruit - pears and apples and citrus - lemons, limes and a big orange oil note. This is really nice!
Palate: Again there's a thick creamy smoky custard but this time the spice has been turned down a notch, it's still there just more subtle. There's some honey and some apricot but it's soon covered by a gentle blanket of smoke. In a way it's a little disappointing after the brilliant nose, it's been water down a notch to cater for those rich men's palates.
Finish: Quiet short, smoky but dominated by honey.

Overall: As I get to the end of my flight of five I thought all these would be rubbish blends but they are not. Ok Red and Black left a lot to be desired but Double Black was OK and Island Green was a really nice dram especially the palate. Blue's nose though - wow - it's not a single malt but it is a combination of some of the best ones out there and the quality shows through. Island Green's palate is probably the nest of the bunch. If they could get the nose of the Blue and the palate of the Island Green together I'm sure they'd be on to a winner!

Another couple of great adverts, for JW Blue, introduced to me by @TopWhiskies involve Jude Law and Giancarlo Giannini having a Gentleman's Wager!