Nestled in a wooden enclave for a minimum of twenty one years, building character from the lure of American and European influences, this Scottish blend is born off a rich, five star heritage, that continues to evolve even after over two centuries of history. Backed by a global appeal that is second to none, the John Walker XR 21 was inspired by the handwritten blending notes of master blender, Sir Alexander Walker, the grandson of entrepreneur Johnnie Walker to commemorat his annointment as Knight Commander by King George V in 1920.
The XR is neatly set in a golden hard box with a very sovereign, regent like cross inscribed across the lower centre of the casing. Flipping the face of the box, reveals the broad shouldered decanter with a large, regal cork that sits neatly in the palm of your hand. The cross also finds itself on top of the cork and etched on its sides too – all of which to symbolize Sir Alexander’s Knighthood.
Moving to the insides, this expression as is the case with most JWs is a blend of grain and malt whiskies matured in a combination of American and European oak, containing some rare malts sourced from the now shut Brora distillery. The spirit might seem dark to the eye owing to its time in the casks, but there’s certainly caramel colouring in there.
Eye: Almost tawny| Artificially coloured
Nose: Sweet at first with vanilla and brown sugar. An earthy peaty charachter is accompanied by leather like notes and hint of citrus zest followed by wood polish. Plums and poached pear with a helping of milk chocolate is replaced by cinnamon tea, cardamon and peppery notes that give a spicy hit towards the end.
Taste: Caramel cake with a drizzle of honey paired with a fruit salad – a mix of peaches, plums, cantaloupes, sprinkled with raisins. Woody but winey, leaving a mildly dry and peppery feel on the palate, followed by a warm spice that continues to linger around the taste buds.
Finish: Medium to long – fruity dark grapes with a warm and spicy aftertaste.
The XR is well bodied and smooth, starting sweet then boding with a lovely spice mix of pepper and cardamom with a hint of peat lingering in and about. The sweetness turns mute but the spice cuts right through, the dominant charachter clearly, forcing itself both on the nose and the palate. For around AUD $160, it comes well packaged, with a decent range of depth and flavour. Is it a worthy aged blend? Maybe not top shelf but still very much a great choice for those family celebrations.
Preference: Neat, no doubt. The nose at first seemed awkwardly punchy and this could be attributed to the marriage between wood and spirit. For a whisky bottled at 40% it isn’t really aggresive. Maybe a few mils of water might relax the spirit but letting it sit out for a while will do the trick too!