Reviewed by: Nick
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.
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.
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