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, then 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

Original 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

Original 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 1990's or a little later.

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€

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.

 

   
 

 

Red Label, No Age Statement

An original bottling from the 1940's

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale bronze

Nose: Initially very fruity with distinct suggestions of something quite metallic akin to a foundry or workshop. After a minute or two the aromas expand to include a sherry-like property, but very light, perhaps amontillado? Then the fruitiness returns with hints of bramble (blackberries). Finally I get a further hint of creme brulιe.

Palate: Very warming, solid and rich with a suggestion of that bramble fruitiness and creme brulιe.

Finish: Very long with a slight dryness on the front of the tongue.

Overall Impression: JW Red? Really? Fan-bloody-tastic!

 

   

 

   

Red Label - 12 different Miniature bottlings

In 2019 / 2020 I purchased various small collections of miniature whiskies, one of which was a collection of twelve Johnnie Walker red label bottlings. Here are my reviews of those bottlings but sadly I have no information as to exactly when they were released.

   
 

      

 
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 43% ABV

Export Bottling

The labels are similar to the bottling reviewed earler which is from the early 1960's, so I reckon this is also 60's, perhaps early 70's?

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark Oak

Nose: Initially some very fresh and light notes fading after some minutes in the glass and being replaced by the aroma of scorched wood which further intensifies with more time in the glass, eventually suggesting a burnt woodiness.

Palate: This has a really tingly or peppery mouth-feel alongside a fruitiness reminding me of something like mango or maybe even peach? With time the pepperiness decreases and that scorched woodiness from the nose appears on the palate.

Finish: Medium to long with that woodiness.

Overall Impression: Scorched or burnt woodiness may sound a little unappetising but it adds a slightly unusual character which I really like here. A truly lovely and amazing whisky. Is this really JW Red?

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 40% ABV (Plastic bottle)

Export Bottling for Schieffelin & Somerset Co. N.Y. In 1987 Moet Hennessey & Guinness created Schieffelin & Somerset Co. as a joint venture, then in 1997 Guinness merged with Grand Met to create Diageo. This may give some idea as to when this one was bottled but as it doesn't have the Award won in 1996 mentioned on the label I guess it was pre-'96, but it does state 'blended Scotch Whisky' as opposed to 'old'.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark Oak with an orange tint.

Nose: Lots of fruitiness with suggestions of bitter apple and pear. There's also a dry woodiness, perhaps leafy too and I'm reminded of banana stem as it certainly does have a fruity woodiness.

Palate: This is mouth-filling and big with a peppery fruitiness.

Finish: Very long, fruity & peppery.

Overall Impression: Dry and bitter fruitiness, I like this.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 43% ABV

Export Bottling for Kupferberg, Mainz (Germany) As far as I can ascertain from my (google) research on Kupferberg in Mainz, Germany this bottling is from the 1970's or 1980's, most probably 80's.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich dark Oak / Teak.

Nose: I'm detecting various impressions including something slightly metallic, cardboard, oat biscuit or even rice cake / biscuit.

Palate: Lovely creamy mouth-feel with hints of malty biscuit and a damp leafiness reminding me of an Autumn country lane in rural England. It also has a mild pepperiness.

Finish: Long, remaining mouth-filling or coating.

Overall Impression: Another different JW Red and a lovely one at that.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, No ABV Statement

Duty Free bottling Again I'm suggesting pre-1996 as there's no mention of the Award won in '96 on the label.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Similar to the last one as it has some metallic, malty and oaty cereal hints but this one also has a fruitiness reminiscent of berries. After about 5 minutes in the glass some scorched woodiness akin to the first one also appears.

Palate: Peppery and fruity but now the fruitiness suggests mango, papaya or peach. Despite the pepperiness there's also a lovely creamy mouth-feel.

Finish: Long, very long.

Overall Impression: Elements of the first and third bottlings in this series of 12 make it a very good whisky. Quite amazing.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 40% ABV

This edition has the London 1996 Award printed on the label, so definitely post 1996.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Very pale yellow, straw.

Nose: Malty biscuit-y-ness alongside a freshness akin to fresh country air. Even a little grassiness.

Palate: My initial thoughts are of a watery mouth-feel. There's also some gentle pepperiness, grassiness and that biscuit-y-ness from the nose.

Finish: Long and gently peppery.

Overall Impression: Watery and lacking some 'oomph'.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, No ABV Statement

Again pre-1996 according to the Awards printed on the label. My belief is 1960's or 70's.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich dark walnut.

Nose: Initially I'm thinking of toasted nuttiness, perhaps burnt walnut shells but this is followed by an over-riding sense of rubber and sulphur.

Palate: Intensely rubbery and sulphury. Really quite unpleasant

Finish: Long, far too long.

Overall Impression: Oh dear something went very wrong with this one. Firstly I thought it could be thanks to some unpleasant sherry notes causing the rubber and sulphur effects, but as far as I know JW Red has never been a sherry cask whisky. Something has definitely gone wrong or 'off' over time as this cannot possibly be normal. In the end I was left sensing rancid marzipan and couldn't finish the sample. Such a shame.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 40% ABV

Once again no mention of the 1996 Award but otherwise I don't know the date of bottling. Somewhere between 1970 to 1990?

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light Oak

Nose: Lots of fruitiness, in fact nothing other than fruitiness with this one. I'm thinking pear, peach or even kiwi fruit.

Palate: Very creamy mouth-feel with lots of fruitiness but also some suggestion of grain (cereal, plain biscuit?).

Finish: Long.

Overall Impression: A little one dimensional but having said this it's a very good whisky with a big fruity character.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 40% ABV

Once again no mention of the 1996 Award but otherwise I don't know the date of bottling. Somewhere between 1970 to 1990?

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark yellow gold / light oak.

Nose: A slightly bitter fruitiness accompanies aromas of rising bread dough. I'm even reminded of still warm hot cross buns fresh from the oven.

Palate: Fruity and mildly peppery with a mustiness. I'm now thinking more of scones than hot cross buns.

Finish: Long, musty and fruity.

Overall Impression: Similar to the last sample with the fruitiness but this also incorporates some lovely hints of freshly baked scones.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 40% ABV

This edition has the London 1996 Award printed on the label, so definitely post 1996.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark yellow gold but also cloudy.

Nose: Sulphury like a struck match alongside the maltiness of malted milk biscuits, albeit quite stale.

Palate: Hmm, watery, weak, almost tasteless. Another I'm not going to finish.

Finish: Thankfully very short.

Overall Impression: Oh dear, perhaps the cloudiness of the whisky gave me a clue that something may be wrong. This has also gone off over time but it isn't quite as unpleasant as my sixth sample, not quite.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 43% ABV

Export bottling for Germany which I'd possibly place as being from the 60's to the 80's.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Very dark gold or equally dark oak.

Nose: This sample takes me back to school in the late 1960's and into the 70's when we had to wear gym shoes called plimsoles. Yes, that rubbery aroma of plimsoles can never be forgotten or mistaken.

Palate: Rubbery with some mild pepperiness.

Finish: Long and rubbery.

Overall Impression: OK, so is this another that's deteriorated over time? It's certainly drinkable if you don't mind some rubberiness (which I don't mind) and not so unpleasant. Let's say strangely drinkable.

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 43% ABV

Export bottling for Kupferberg (Germany) As far as I can ascertain from my (google) research on Kupferberg in Mainz, Germany this bottling is from the 1970's or 1980's, most probably 80's.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark yellow gold / oak.

Nose: Very aromatic in a herbal and almost floral way. There are also suggestions of milky toffee and a gentle woodiness.

Palate: There are distinct suggestions of milky toffee, butterscotch and maybe even brandy snap.

Finish: Medium length continuing with that hint of toffee.

Overall Impression: Wonderful, is this the best sample yet? Quite possibly.

 

 

   
 

 

Red Label

No Age Statement, 40% ABV

Export bottling for Kupferberg (Germany) As far as I can ascertain from my (google) research on Kupferberg in Mainz, Germany this bottling is from the 1970's or 1980's, most probably 80's.

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark yellow gold.

Nose: A mixture of aromas including something faintly herbal alongside bread dough, no make that a warmed and not too toasted crumpet. There's also the meatiness of bay leaf.

Palate: Much of the nose translates directly onto the palate with milky toffee, herbs and a warming meatiness.

Finish: Long, warming, comforting.

Overall Impression: Warming, meaty, herbal, lovely.

 

   

 

 

Red Label - The current (2021) bottling

In order to finish this series of older JW Reds I decided to purchase the current edition for comparison. I write this in May 2021 which is the date of this particular bottling.

 
   

Red Label, No age statement, 40% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€ (Under €10)

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Yellow gold / pale Oak

Nose: Somehow a little strange or perhaps difficult to identify so I tried this whisky on two separate occasions. On the first I had an initial impression of it being quite farmy (farmyard, or old farm barn) but alongside this farminess was what I can only describe as a hint of Brasso. There was also a hint of something metallic and warm which made me consider a soldering iron but accompanied by herbal notes. Yes, this definitely needed a re-sample a few days later.

On my second try I still found strong herbal suggestions and the hint of Brasso was still present although more floral in character. After 4-5 minutes in the glass I found a suggestion of (red) summer berries.

Palate: My initial thought here was of a watery mouth-feel and a mild metallic-ness. It isn't exactly bland but it is a little weak in flavour.

On my second try I still found it to be a little watery (40% abv) but it had much more flavour as the fruitiness (red berries) from the nose carried forward onto the palate. I still found it to have a mild metallic suggestion but this was accompanied by a dry leafiness and a hint of vanilla.

Finish: Surprisingly quite long.

Overall Impression: I noticed a definite improvement on my second tasting after the bottle had been open for almost a week. That exposure to a bit of air really helps. No, this isn't a spectacular nor great whisky but it did turn out to be better than I expected and as for the price of (just under) €10 it has to constitute fantastic value for money.

 

   

 

   

Black Label, 12y, 40% ABV

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

Original 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

Original 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

Original 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

Original 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

Original 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

Original 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.

Original 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

Original 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

Original 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

Original 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

Original 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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