Gold Label Reserve

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.



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?


Blind tasting: Johnnies Night

Posted by: Nick

I like to consider myself somewhat clued up about whisky. Over my time I’ve had a dram or two. I dare to think of myself as an experienced whisky drinker. And I would like to believe that just maybe, I could tell a $200 bottle from one costing pocket change.

But then there was one night. One terrible night. One awful night when everything I knew about whisky hung in the balance. I am referring to: Johnnies Night.

Spooky Johnnies Whisky Waffle Nick and Ted


Johnnie Walker is the best selling maker of blended Scotch whisky on the planet. Despite this, or maybe because of it, my colleague Ted and I have never truly cared about any of their products. This of course was most likely a result of our dabbles as younger, broker men, when we frequently ‘tasted’ the Red Label multiple times an evening at various social events we attended, and then were too stingy to seek out their more expensive and esteemed bottles. Slowly and surely, however, we built up a collection: through our own purchases, our fathers’ purchases, and purchases by our generous friend Stephen who provided the two most valuable bottles (things haven’t changed that much – we still can’t ordinarily afford a bottle of Blue simply for a blind tasting night!)

The task was simple – six expressions of Johnnie Walker: Red, Black, Double Black, Gold, Platinum and Blue, were to be blind tasted and we would predict which dram was which. Now, I say simple. This turned out to not be the case.

Close up whisky waffle

An artsy close up of our un-whisky friendly glassware. They have colour-coded tags, though!

I’ll make the excuse here and now that we had never tried several of the expressions before – but this could not explain our poor showing when the results came in.

I won’t go into the detailed statistics of the night, partly because it would make tedious reading, and partly because we are far too embarrassed to share them with the world. Suffice to say that we rated the blue far lower than it’s worth and overvalued the red label. The Platinum and the Gold didn’t fare any better, while the Double Black proved popular.

Maybe this says that we do not have as expensive taste as we claimed. Or perhaps it says we do not have as developed palates as we think. Eager to prove this latter fact wrong, Ted and I had a second attempt, this time correctly identifying the Red, Black and Double Black, but then mixing up the upper three.

Lots of Johnnie Walker – some would say too much…

At the end of the night, we were confused, but not perturbed. It was the first blind tasting we had ever done, and we finished the night with a better understanding of blended whisky. The results had turned up the fact that the Gold and Platinum bottles did not appeal greatly to us, nor justify their price tags. The Blue Label was slightly better received, although embarrassingly, so was the Red. Finally, the biggest revelation of the night was our discovery of, in our opinion, the best Johnnie Walker expression.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you some actual consumer advice.

Taking into account flavour, value, personal preferences, and the level of inebriation we had reached at the conclusion of the night, we found the best bottle of Johnnie Walker colour expression to be the Double Black.

That said, I’d take a bottle of Glenlivet any day.