Lowlands

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?

Whisky Waffle announce: Johnnie Walker Week

Posted by Nick and Ted

The Whisky Wafflers are chuffed to announce their first ever ‘event week’! Over the next seven days they will be sampling each of the main expressions of Scotland’s most famous and renowned blended whisky. I am of course referring to: Walkers Kilmarnock Whiskies!

What’s that? It’s not called that these days? Well what is it then? Oh. I see. I stand corrected.

I am of course referring to: Johnnie Walker!

Whisky Waffle considering Johnnie Walker

If you are a Scotch whisky drinker, it’s likely that at some stage in your life, you will have tried a Johnnie Walker product. If you are not a Scotch whisky drinker, it’s even more likely that at some stage in your life you will have tried a Johnnie Walker product – and it put you off.

Regardless, be sure to tune in over the next seven days for our light hearted and occasionally tongue in cheek opinions of all six main expressions, as well as the story of our darkest whisky drinking day.

With all that and more coming up, be sure to visit the page over the next week and find out exactly what we think of the best selling whisky in the world!

#johnniewalkerweek

Auchentoshan Three Wood

Reviewed by Nick

Auchentoshan Three Wood whisky waffle

Despite it not being advertised as a 12 year old whisky, the Auchentoshan Three Wood has been aged in barrels for twelve years. Ten in American oak, one in ex-Oloroso sherry barrels and finally, another one in ex-Pedro Ximenez casks. The result is as surprising as it is magnificent. I can only describe it in one way – Christmas in whisky form.

The final two years of this whisky’s maturation has changed the spirit’s appearance from the sparkling gold typical of classic Auchentoshan to a deeper shade of crimson. It has also added depth to the already present sweet, butterscotch, dried fruit flavours. Suddenly, it’s spicy on the nose, broad across the palate and lengthy in the finish. In short: sticky date pudding – nay – fruit cake – nay – Christmas cake. It is simply one of – if not the – greatest 12 year old Scottish whisky on the market.

This is a dram perfect for warming your heart on a cold snowy day, and although it originates in one of Scotland’s most southerly distilleries, Glasgow is certainly not short of days such as this. This whisky, however, is a little more special than that. Out of all the snowy wintery days in Scotland, this dram would be especially suited to a particularly festive one.

★★★★