Johnnie Walker

   

Johnnie Walker whisky was originally known as Walker's Kilmarnock whisky and was founded by John 'Johnnie' Walker who started to sell whisky in his grocery shop.

John died in 1857 and the business was taken over by his son Alexander Walker and Grandson Alexander Walker II who both established this whisky as a popular brand.

Their own first blend was first produced in 1865 and was called Walker's Old highland.

1870 Saw the introduction of the now famous 'square' bottle

 
 

The introduction of colour names occurred between 1906-9 as the range was expanded.

1908 Saw something of a re-branding by the Managing Director James Stevenson who changed the name from Walker's Kilmarnock Whiskies to the now iconic "Johnnie Walker" and he also introduced the slogan "Born 1820 - Still going strong".

He was also responsible for introducing the "Striding Man" logo.

The company became part of Distiller's Company in 1925, the Guinness in 1986 who later merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo, the current owners.

The historic Kilmarnock operation was closed in 2010 by Diageo and transferred to other facilities.

 

 

 

   

Red Label, No Age Statement, 40% ABV

A blend of up to 35 Single Malt & Single Grain whiskies

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Amber

Nose: A touch of malt, a slight hint of rubber, damp walnut shells and a wet, leafy jetty.

Palate: Initially soft and creamy with not very much burn following as the flavour of nuts, straw, malt and hints of honey spread across the palate.

Finish: Long.

Overall Impression: A good value, everyday blend, especially this litre I found for €16

 

 

Red Label, No Age Statement, 26 2/3 oz, 70°proof

An original JW Red Label from the early 1960's

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ (yes, even now)

Glass: Glencairn

Colour: Bright golden yellow

Nose: Lightly grassy with a mild nuttiness. Also toffee and a light smokiness.

Palate: Very mouth-coating with a dry and smoky nuttiness, toffee and fudge.

Finish: Long with a dry nuttiness and fudge.

Overall Impression: A world of a difference from the JW Red of today. Much richer and mouth-coating.

 

 

Red Label, No Age Statement, 70cl, 40% ABV

An original JW Red Label from the 1980's

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ (yes, even now)

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: 9ct yellow gold

Nose: Offers leafy vanilla with a hint of banana stem. Over time the leafiness expands and now includes a definite mustiness.

Palate: Surprisingly faint but does offer a slight suggestion of liquorice and peachiness.

Finish: Surprisingly long and consistant with a creamy peachiness.

Overall Impression: An interesting nose gives way to a rather weak and subdued palate which in turn evolves into a rather long finish. Very interesting whisky from the 1980's.

 

   
   

Black Label, 12y, 40% ABV

A blend of over 40 Single Malt & Single Grain whiskies, including Glendullan, Mortlach, Talisker, Cameron Brig & Black Label

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Amber

Nose: A weak nose takes some time to develop and when it does, it offers the slightest hint of smoke, overlaid with soft wood, faint herbs and a mixture of apple and pear.

Palate: I detect a smoky presence along one side of the tongue, whilst the other half seems engulfed in fruit. This is also quite gentle and not at all a harsh whisky.

Finish: Medium to long and gently repetitive.

Overall Impression: With all components of this blend a minimum of 12 years it is definitely a little more mature than the Red Label, but still great value and a jolly good everyday blend.

 

   
   

Double Black, 40% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Bugatti Kelch

Colour: Oak, light amber

Nose: Initially a little chemical, light oak, vanilla and slightly maritime. After 3-4 minutes some fruit (peach) appearing, then after a further 3-4 minutes this is replaced by an aroma of freshly dug potatoes.

Palate: There is a very slight hint of peat, but the emphasis is on very slight as the main influence here is a mixture of pear and peach.

Finish: Quite long and dry.

Overall Impression: When I heard that JW were introducing this Double Black into certain markets as another peated or smoky offering I wondered why they should be competing with their own Green Label, but not to worry, this is hardly peated and far more chemical. In fact it's a rather strange whisky overall and not a patch on the wonderrful Green Label. I even prefer the 'normal' black label!

 

   
   

Green Label, 15y, 43% ABV

A blend (Vatting) of only Single Malt whiskies, including Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore & Caol Ila

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich gold

Nose: Hints of smoke, peat and a Scottish jetty on a stormy day in the Atlantic.

Palate: Initially delightfully smooth and expanding into a smoky, peaty crescendo right on the front of the tongue.

Finish: Long, but always right on the front middle of the tongue.

Overall Impression: A wonderful JW and also the best value of them all!

 

   
   

Gold Label, 18y, 40% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Nose: I found this a quite difficult one, but it did offer lots of malt and almost phenolic bilge pumps.

Palate: Smooth and gentle with a distinct wateriness. Slight hints of marzipan and initially quite short, but on the second drink it returns to the palate and stays a little longer.

Overall Impression: Pleasant, but hardly memorable.

 

   
   

Premier, 43% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Bugatti Kelch

Colour: Rich dark oak

Nose: Freshly polished oak, wood, marzipan, gentle nut assortment, hints of cognac

Palate: Immediately intense, rich aromatic honey, red wine, oak, toffee

Finish: Very long, intense and sweet

Overall Impression: An excellent whisky, I love it and it's now my favourite JW, but still a little too expensive at around €100

 

   
   

Blue Label, 21y, 40% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Dark honey

Nose: Nuts and slight phenol.

Palate: Fantastically smooth with lots of nuts and almond paste.

Overall impression: This really is good. But the typical price here is around €120 and I'm sorry, but it's not THAT good. For the same €120 I can get some great single malts which are much better in my opinion.

 

   
   

Blue Label, King George V, 43% ABV

Contains Cardhu, Lochnagar and some Port Ellen in the mix.

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ to €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Gold

Nose: A tinge of rubber, hints of smoke and eventually some slightly sweet pear

   
 

Palate: Delightfully smooth but slow to develop. This really does build slowly, with some initial pear gradually opening to include walnut, maybe a little chestnut and eventually a light mango ice cream.

Finish: Once this gets going it is indeed very long and ends with a tingling spiciness.

Overall impression: How much!

 

 

 

  The Directors' Blend    
 

Each year, Diageo's master blender Jim Beveridge and his team create a one-off edition of no more than 500 bottles specifically for the Johnnie Walker Directors. Each edition focuses upon one element of the whisky making process to highlight the effects of how individual components, or even processes can influence the end result.

   
 

 

Directors' Blend, 2008

Focus on Grain

One of 450 bottles, matured in American Oak

Typical cost of this bottle; Internal Ltd Edition, not for resale.

 
 

Colour: Light yellow

Nose: Very fresh and clean with lots of vanilla and butterscotch.

Palate: Quite dry and mouth-coating but lots of grassy butterscotch and just a hint of apricot.

Finish: Medium

 
  Overall Impression: I can really detect the grain whisky elements in this, so yes, a focus on grain really works here. Very nice.

 

 
 

 

Directors' Blend, 2009

Focus on Highland & Island Smoke

Bottle No.59

Typical cost of this bottle; Internal Ltd Edition, not for resale.

 
 

Colour: Rich gold

Nose: Lots of floral and lightly perfumed smokiness.

Palate: Creamy, smoky fruitiness with apple, raspberry and smoke. In fact I'm now thinking stewed apple and custard.

Finish: Medium to long.

Overall Impression: Wonderful, I love it.

 

   
   

Directors' Blend, 2010

Focus on Speyside Fruit

Typical cost of this bottle; Internal Ltd Edition, not for resale.

 
 

Colour: Light gold

Nose: An immediate burst of what I can only describe as nicely complex zing. Yes there's fruit, lots of fruitiness!

Palate: That fruitiness is joined on the palate by a delightfully light pepperiness.

Finish: Long with lightly spicy fruit.

Overall Impression: Another cracker, maybe even a fruity firecracker!

 

   
   

Directors' Blend, 2011

Focus on Wood

Typical cost of this bottle; Internal Ltd Edition, not for resale.

 
 

Colour: Rich golden toffee, maybe even light amber.

Nose: Apricot and vanilla woodiness alongside butterscotch.

Palate: Lots of lightly floral perfume, vanilla and yes, plenty of oakiness too.

Finish: Long with a delightfully creamy woodiness.

Overall Impression: Wow, I'm impressed.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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