Johnnie Walker isn’t really a brand that needs an introduction; the rectangular bottling, the angled labelling, even more so the century plus old iconic ‘Striding Man’ have been hallmarks for a whisky that spawned out of very humble beginnings. With a repertoire of peat, smoke and sherry, packaged up nicely, fairly affordable and consistent from one bottling to the next, gives enough reasoning for ‘six bottles of the brand to be sold every second!!’
This weeks tasting, the Blue Label was a 20cl acquisition that in itself came in a very plush blue, hard cover boxing; and inside was this tinier twin with a narrow neck and an even smaller cork – uncommon since the bottle was so much in proportion to what a 70cl or 1 litre bottling would resemble. Most bottles of this volume would have a disproportionate head to body ratio but JW I guess wanted to get this right.
Introduced in 2002, the Blue takes space in the upper tier of the Johnnie Walker stables and consists of blends both young and old, some around 25 years – reason why this remains a NAS version. The heart of the blend is the Royal Lochngar, a blend not that very heard off I’m sure, but still very much Diageo’s and a malt they use in many of their high end blends.
Eye: Burnished; Unfortunately artificially coloured and Chill filtered.
Nose: A rich amalgamation of brown sugar, raisins, almonds and dried fruits. Hints of smoke, a mild drizzle of honey and the soft-sweet grain which is soon welcomed by an earthy feel like dry straw on a warm summers day. The tail end of the rum and raisin feel is soon replaced by a pinch of black pepper.
Taste: Starts sweet with a rush of caramel toffee, honey and Christmas cake flooding the palate, followed by char and a mix of spices – nutmeg, cinnamon and ground pepper that seem to harmonize together but soon trailing is a sweetness like that cherries and stone fruits that blankets this mild spice.
Finish: Mildly dry, green apples and red grapes with a pinch of nutmeg; medium.
The Blue is not your typical JW, it does retain the essence of the JW dna but looses much of the bolder flavours as it isn’t peat affinite. But what it lacks in smoke and peat it compensates in sherry, dried fruits and caramel toffees. A very smooth whisky, subtle with layers of flavours inherited from its time in sherry oak barrels.
Ok! Let’s get to the “Elephant in the room” – is this a whisky one would go back to? Yes, IF ONLY it wasn’t priced so terribly high. It is a joyful, lovely dram to sip, offering an above average experience but all that euphoria is soon misplaced once you factor the near AUD$200 pricetag. There are certainly an array of whiskies, blends included that can easily sideswipe the Blue – both on flavour and price point!
Preference: Neat, a splash of water or even coupled with a few ice cubes. I would certainly not mix this in a cocktail, the flavours on the palate are best savoured as virgin as possible. But, let me not stop you if that is how you best relish your glass of whisky!