Month: November 2014

Young Enthusiasts Meet Over Peat

Posted by: Mooresy

The first young whisky enthusiasts’ event held at the Lark Cellar Door was a huge success. The sell-out tasting session featured a whirlwind tour of some very special drops, as well as the bar staff choosing some extra whisky for people based on what they liked, and what they didn’t like.

Some people liked it so much, they bought a whole bottle of their favourite.

Whisky Business 1 whisky waffle

Whisky: the ultimate conversation starter. Especially after five drams…

In a blind tasting, attendees first had to guess the Cragganmore Double Matured Distillers Edition, with most people agreeing it was a definite step up from the entry level 12 Year Old. Second was a Jefferson’s 100% Rye Whisky which threw a few people. The spicy rye flavour was new to a lot of people, and a lot came back for seconds to help us finish off the bottle.

Back to malt whisky but not in a rush to return to Scotland, the group moved to the Yamazaki 12 Year Old (previously reviewed by Ted) which went down a treat. The night was full of gossip about Yamazaki because we had just heard about Jim Murray heaping praise on their Sherry Cask variant and that moved the conversations to sherry. This was a cunning hint by the guides because the next taste was a true sherry bomb. The group were blessed with an as yet unreleased double sherry wood from Lark, and it exploded sherry goodness all over the room.

Finally, the finisher. A Distillers Edition Lagavulin finished in Pedro Ximenez casks and probably the people’s choice for the night. The marriage of sherry and peat was a treat to witness with one member saying “it’s like you took all the things I like most about whisky and chose one based exactly on my personal taste”.

That’s the point of it all, right there.

Following the success of the event, the group – now called Whisky Business – will be having another tasting event at 7:30PM on Wed 17 December at the Lark Cellar Door in Hobart. If you are a novice and keen to come along, learn more and pick up some tips and tricks, please contact Alex Moores on 0417 382 542 or at alexandermoores@gmail.com.

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Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old Whisky Waffle

Double the wood, double the fun! Just getting into whisky? Think you might like to give one of those new-fangled single malts a try? Can’t afford the Glenfiddich 50yo? Roll up and try the multi-barrelled, malty-talented whisky wizard, the one, the only: the Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood! It’ll cure all your woes*!

* Side effects may include becoming compulsive about seeking out single malts, and mild discomfort in the presence of blends.

Balvenie is a member of the the William Grant & Sons stable, and is the less famous sister to Glenfiddich. Balvenie prides itself on continuing to use traditional hand malting methods, and is well respected for its high quality range of whiskies. Chief amongst these is the 12yo DoubleWood, a dram that has converted many a whisky novice.

There is a good reason for the DoubleWood moniker: while it spends the majority of its life in American oak, for the last few months of maturation the spirit is transferred to sherry butts. This technique imparts the range of flavour that makes this whisky special and means that there is something in it for everyone.

This variety of flavour is immediately evident on the nose with sweeter notes of caramel, fruit leather and vanilla pairing with a citrusy tang reminiscent of lemon drops, and aromatic spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon.

The flavour is very broad and rounded across the palate. There is an initial hit of oranges, followed by spicy ginger and buttery shortbread. The sherry influence is definitely present in the finish. Dried fruits such as figs, prunes and dates can be found, and a tasty flourish of old English toffee is left on the tongue at the end.

The Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood is exceptionally smooth for its age, and is also excellent value for this level of quality. For experienced whisky drinkers there is so much to like here and it warrants repeated tastings (for research purposes, naturally). For those just beginning their journey, the DoubleWood provides an ideal gateway to the broader whisky world. So line up ladies and gents, there’s enough for everybody. You won’t be disappointed!

★★★★

Johnnie Walker: the verdict

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Hi Wafflers! Johnnie Walker Week is officially over and we have emerged unscathed and wiser from the other side. Throughout the week we’ve gained an appreciation for blended Scotch whisky – and even more of an appreciation for single malts.

All joking aside (and there were a few of them this week) Johnnie Walker has produced a formidable range of whiskies and we can understand why they are the most popular in the world, even if we respectfully disagree.

Happy Wafflers johnny walker week whisky waffle

So what have we learned throughout Johnnie Walker Week? Let’s pick through the shrapnel:

  • The Red Label is consumed throughout the world as a mixer. And after trying it neat – we understand why;
  • The Black Label likes to think of itself as a step up – and it is – but not nearly enough to consume neat;
  • The Double Black fixes the problems of the previous two with solid flavours and a generous dose of smoke, and in our opinion is the best value in the range;
  • The Gold Label Reserve balances its flavours well, although sadly there are not many of them to balance;
  • The Platinum Label 18 Year Old is beautifully smooth but lacking in soul;
  • The Blue Label is excellent – but very expensive. And when you could buy a Balvenie 21 Year Old for the same price – why would you go for the blend?

So there you have it. Whisky Waffle’s first ‘event week’ has concluded. Thanks for checking it out and we hope you appreciated our ramblings and perhaps you have also broadened your whisky drinking horizons. If anyone has their own opinions or rankings of the Johnnie Walker range, let us know in the comments!

Until next time, keep on waffling,

Nick and Ted

#johnniewalkerweek

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Posted by: Mooresy

Green label whisky waffle

Johnnie Walker Green Label is – or I should say was – a bit of an anomaly in the family. Unlike the others which are all blends including grain and non-malt whiskies, Green was a blended malt made up of only four whiskies, all single malts. This gave it the quality of arriving like a blend then developing on the palate more like a single malt. It’s nose complexity was also more akin to a single malt, and the better noses out there could probably pick the distilleries involved from the smell.

I happen to know what they were, but so as not to spoiler, you’ll have to ask me.

 

An elegy for Johnnie Green

Though caramel brown, your label was Green

With flavoured malt so crisp and clean

A complex coffee fruity smell

Vanilla and nuttiness went down well

The taste had cereals, chocolate and nuts

Not sharp or heavy but you sure had guts

A finish strong with walnuts and honey

Of Johnnie’s varieties you were worth the money

One day the factory shut you down

Scotch lovers everywhere gave a frown

No more would we have our favourite blend

A standout nip, a lifelong friend

Now we’re confined to Black and Red

That burns our nose and hurts our head

There’s lots of fine drams out there today

And where there’s a Walker there’s a will and a way

But for now we must simply say farewell

You were a classic, a legend and we think that you’re swell

 

Now a rare and hard to find malt, Green is consigned to the archive of Johnnie Walker’s bond store along with the Gold Label 18 (they’ve removed the age statement for the current variant) and the elusive Johnnie Walker White Label which I have never tasted. If you find a sealed bottle of Green, you may want to hold onto it for its value but I would strongly encourage you to pop the cork and taste a true exception to the rule. If you spot a half open bottle on a friend’s shelf or in a dark musty pub, encourage the friend to crack it at a party or buy it shot by shot from the wizened landlord.

If you are a single-malt snob who sees the word blended and runs a mile from the likes of Green and the very delicious Blue Hanger, thank you. More for the rest of us.

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Blue Label Whisky Waffle

One of the reasons we like single malts is the variability in character; all the little quirks and oddities that come together to create something exciting and different every time. The experiences they leave with you create a lasting impression, such as the first time Ted tried a 72% ABV Heartwood, all crazy and wild and exhilarating, or the time Nick tried an English single malt in a Scottish bar and nearly poured it down the sink, much to the amusement of the patrons.

In comparison, blends tend to be a lot less individual, which is hardly surprising given that the elements are painstakingly selected for their ability to meld seamlessly together. Very rarely does a blend give you something to talk about and really get your teeth into. Not so the Johnnie Walker Blue Label, the proclaimed pinnacle of the standard Johnnie Walker range. Discovering this came as somewhat of a surprise to we Johnnie Walker sceptics.

Blue Nick and Ted Whisky Waffle

Unlike any of the other previously reviewed releases, there is a great deal more complexity on the nose. There are delightfully interacting elements of oak, chocolate, and fruit such as oranges, pears and peaches, complimented by a light hint of smoke. The overall character is very warm and welcoming.

The mouth is actually relatively sweet, but so completely different to the overbearing, manufactured sickliness of the Red Label that it’s hard to believe that the two are made by the same company. It’s more like the pure sweetness of a really good light honey. The flavour develops through caramel, to sweet orange, and on to slightly bitter cocoa, all the while accompanied by a pleasing gentle smokiness which lingers on the tongue.

The Johnnie Walker Blue Label has certainly not committed the cardinal whisky sin of being boring. It is rare that a blend has this much complexity, and gives us so much pleasure debating its merits. After all, the best whiskies are the most memorable ones. We’re still not entirely convinced it’s worth the $200 price tag, but after a couple of drams we’re much closer to believing it.

★★★

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Posted by: Ted

WW Platinum Label

Let us picture a woman: she wears chic white designer clothes, and her platinum blonde hair is perfectly styled. She is beautiful, with flawless ivory skin and delicate features, and yet her pale grey eyes are cold and her face is blank of emotion. She is like an icy white marble statue come to life. Her house is filled with expensive minimalist designer furnishings, all in white, and the effect is striking and elegant. Yet somehow it leaves you feeling empty; it’s too clean, too clinical, lacking in any warmth that allows you to develop an emotional connection.

If you distilled the idea of the white lady and her house, and bottled it, then you would capture the essence of the Johnnie Walker Platinum Label. The Platinum is marketed as one of the top tier bottlings in the standard Johnnie Walker range. It is delicately assembled from a selection of minimum 18 year old single malt and grain whiskies, and was inspired by the private blends created as gifts for the upper echelons of the Johnnie Walker hierarchy.

Platinum extra Ted

On the nose the Platinum is very light and delicate, with hints of dusty oak floorboards, cereals such as bran, oats and barley, chocolate, and coffee. There is no sweetness or fruitiness here, and as such the scent is rather dry and wooden as a result. The mouth is extremely smooth, with subtle flavours of polished oak and walnuts. A flicker of sweetness is allowed, perfectly balanced by a dash of bitterness. The end is dry and provides a grind of black pepper followed later by a sprinkling of ash.

There is a sense that the Johnnie Walker Platinum Label is a stylish drink created for those with sophisticated tastes, and yet in trying to achieve this they somehow miss the point. Yes, the flavours all work together superbly, but as a whole it’s too refined, polished to the point where there is no spark left to bring it to life. The white lady is beautiful to behold, but be warned, her heart is cold and she will not give you the love and warmth you crave.

★★

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

 

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Reviewed by: Nick

Johnnie Walker Gold Label whisky waffle

It is said that many years ago, three wise whisky tasters came from the east (probably Speyside) to bequeath fantastic gifts upon the saviour of blended whisky. The first wise man brought a very special present: gold. Specifically, Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (the other two of course brought Johnnie Walker Frankincense Label and Johnnie Walker Myrrh Label). Somehow, as if by divine intervention, I found myself in possession of one of these relics: the Gold Label Reserve. Upon reverently pouring myself a dram, I heard a choir of angels singing joyous melodies. I then brought the vessel to my lips and drank.

Confusion then hit me. Is this… it? Surely a bottle titled: ‘Gold Label Reserve’ should be a drop unlike any other! But no. This whisky is not the messiah. It is a very naughty boy.

Gold extra Nick Whisky Waffle

In 2013, Johnnie Walker re-marketed a range of its products. The fan favourite Green Label was removed, a shiny new Platinum Label 18 Year Old was introduced, and the Gold Label was re-branded as Gold Label Reserve, in the process losing its age statement. In theory, the addition of the word ‘Reserve’ indicated a more esteemed and better tasting product. But in practice – they created a drop that was disappointingly unremarkable.

There are traces of citrus on the nose, as well as cocoa and some herbal notes. The sweetness is there, but it is far more subtle than in lower tier Johnnie Walker releases. All of these elements are no more than the merest hint. However it’s well balanced as there is not a great deal of flavour to weigh up. The mouth feel is similarly unexciting. Candied chestnuts, orange peel and a small amount of spice come through, while the finish is short with only a faint dash of caramel lingering. The supposedly ‘trademark’ Johnnie Walker smoke disappears like the vivid details of a dream after you have awoken: vanishing rapidly, as if it had never been there in the first place.

The Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is a good blend, there is no doubt about that. No one flavour dominates the palate and it is unquestionably smoother than the lower tiered releases. It is simply unmemorable. In fact, it is borderline bland. If this was a less esteemed release I would, in all likelihood, applaud it. But for a whisky that calls itself ‘Gold Label’? Such a sin is simply unforgivable.

★★

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Reviewed by: Ted

Double Black Whisky Waffle

Picture the scene: we are standing in the secret headquarters of Johnnie Walker, built cunningly into a mighty tor in the middle of a lonely Scottish loch. A meeting is being held between the head of whisky R&D (Codename: W) and his underlings…

W: “Gentlemen, I have created a new mid-range (but very reasonably priced) whisky. But what to call it?”

Underling: “Well sir, if it’s mid-range then it must be above the Black. If people associate the name Black as being a notch up, a bit more classy, that sort of thing, then surely they’ll think that ‘Double Black’ means twice the class?”

W: “Genius! Give that man a dram and a slice of haggis!”

Double Black extra Ted Whisky Waffle

Amazingly, Johnnie Walker has managed to deliver just that. Compared to the decidedly woeful Red, and the close-but-not-quite Black, the Double Black really is twice the drink. The boys in the back have managed to iron out the kinks that plagued the previous two iterations and produce a far more balanced and exciting drink.

The element that is really allowed to shine in the Double Black is peat smoke. Johnnie Walker likes to talk about how their whiskies have a smoky nature, but it is here that they open the door and let it out to play. Even the bottle suggests it, being coloured a very dark smoky blue-grey.

Gone are the harsher unbalanced notes from the Red and the Black. Instead the nose gently presents hints of smouldering charcoal, cigars and leather, over rich stewed plums and strawberries with spicy honey. The mouth brings an initial hit of lightly charred oak followed by nicely balanced sweetness and spice. The overall feel is pleasantly smooth and manages to introduce points of interest without capturing any unwanted notes.

While the Red and the Black are only really good for mixers, the Double Black is the first rung on the Johnnie Walker ladder worth enjoying neat. Thanks to the well balanced flavours and that sexy hit of smoke, combined with the very reasonable price tag, the Johnnie Walker Double Black has it in spades, and is a seriously good choice for anyone contemplating a blend.

★★★

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Posted by: Nick

WW Black Label

Johnnie Walker got one thing right when creating their original premium bottling: the name. Black Label subtly suggests quality. Conclude any mundane product title with it and witness the elevation in esteem it receives. For example, Kellogg’s cornflakes: Black Label. Colgate toothpaste: Black Label. Toyota Corolla: Black Label. Chartered accountancy: Black Label.

The name alone should be enough to convince most discerning whisky drinkers that in comparison to the Red Label, this drop is a step up. And it is – but only slightly.

Black extra Nick Whisky Waffle

Johnnie Walker Black is blended from over 40 whiskies all of which are at least 12 years of age. There is a nice range of flavour in this dram, and the supposedly ‘trademark’ smoky character is even vaguely noticeable! The key to this whisky is balance: balance between enjoyable flavours and downright unpleasant ones.

This principle is demonstrated in the nose, which presents a battleground where pleasing chocolate-orange notes and nasty chemical aromas compete for supremacy. There is a lot to like here, although, conversely many elements I’m not at all keen on. The palate continues in a similar vein – the sickly sweetness from the Red Label makes a return but is partially disguised by more agreeable flavours such as oak, nutmeg, and in particular, peat-smoke. It’s the sort of smoke which is only really noticeable if you’ve just polished off a decidedly unpeated malt, but when discovered, it really gives this whisky a lift.

There is a degree of complexity on the finish that is not found in the Red Label. Despite only being bottled at 40% ABV, it features a small amount of lasting spiciness. Sadly the unpleasant sweetness also makes a return and rather spoils the party.

Johnnie Walker Black Label is a mixed bag of a whisky. For every interesting and enjoyable flavour, there is another objectionable one dragging it down. It seems destined to forever be a mixer for those who prefer a slightly classier Scotch and coke. It is premium only in name, sadly not in nature.

★★

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

WW Red Label 2

In theory, blended Scotch whisky should showcase the best elements of the Scottish regions: the mellow sweetness of Speyside, the full bodied character of the Highlands, sexy smoke from Islay and the Islands. Mmm, makes you drool doesn’t it?

Johnnie Walker Red Label manages to showcase none of the above. Instead it somehow picks the worst of these regions: sickly sweetness from the lolly shops of Speyside, industrial air pollution, not from Islay, but Kilmarnock, and what of the character from the Highlands? Well, the only part it manages to keep is the dreadful weather.

Red extra Nick and Ted Whisky Waffle

To look at the Johnnie Red you would not detect anything amiss, but as soon as you give it a nose the questionable quality rears its head. Cloying treacly notes overpower the faint hints of oak desperately trying to claw their way through. Subtlety is not on the agenda here.

The palate is pretty one-dimensional, dominated by a fairly inconsequential caramel that fails to deliver anything of interest. There is a faint hint of maltiness, like cream biscuits where someone has licked out the filling, although admittedly they’re not even the nice kind of biscuits. The finish is lasting in the same way that a glass of cordial lingers at the back of the throat when you haven’t watered it down enough. The burn is not so much from the alcohol but the unpleasant sweetness.

Around the world the Johnnie Walker Red Label is predominantly served as a mixer, and tasting it neat we can understand why. Having said that, millions of litres worth of the stuff is sold around the world every day. In fact it’s the highest selling Scotch whisky on the planet, so basically, what do we know?

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multicoloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?