Thanks to /u/Tsefly for the first sample.
All hobbies have “those” moments. If you’re into Magic: The Gathering, it’ll be someone asking you “Why is it worth so much if it’s just cardboard?”. If you’re into Warhammer 40K, it’s “This art is great, but why do you guys not shower?”
If you’re into wine, it’s people mentioning that price has a major impact on reviews. If you’re into photography, it’s why you aren’t a professional (because it’s that easy). If it’s crossfit, it’s asking you to shut up. If it’s baking, it’s either why you haven’t gone into the “super lucrative” area of baking or if you can make their kid a cake.
Whisky reviews have this as well, however it’s not as bad. It’s the phrase: “How would you rate Johnnie Walker Blue Label?”
Honestly, we get away with the easiest question to answer.
Unless you’re me.
You see, I’ve never had Johnnie Walker Blue Label. And the reason may surprise you…
Oh wait, not at all. It was always just too expensive, I’m not a big fan of traditional blends, and therefore there wasn’t much desire.
Huh. So there’s that.
None the less, it was on some review lists, as well as it’s upgrade, Johnnie Walker King George V. Sometimes, by some, the “Blue Label” is added to this one as well. Sometimes it is not. I’m following the website’s naming, but decided to review them side by side.
So let’s see how they taste, shall we?
Up first we have Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
The story behind this iconic dram is simple: A long time ago, Alexander Walker created the ‘Old Highland Whisky’ blend. So beloved was this blend that it’s commemorated with Blue Label. Old Highland Whisky was launched in 1867 as Johnnie Walker’s first commercial blend.
I have questions, and can’t seem to find answers. It’s most likely, given the different distilleries closing and opening, different companies owning Johnnie Walker, and various other reasons, I’m assuming that this is NOT Old Highland Whisky.
However I do believe that they’d take some ideas from that old whisky and apply it to the taste. Maybe. I don’t really know. It’s a nice thought.
Let’s just see how it tastes before I make a story up about fairies.
rice: $300.70 CAD at the LCBO
Colour: 2.5Y 8/8
Nose: Nectarine, grapefruit, yeast, white cake, wheat, rosemary, vanilla yogurt, smoke
Big fruit notes. Nice nose here. Very much has the grapefruit/citrus/stone fruit thing going on.
I’m impressed by the different notes here. It’s not amazing to me, however good complexity going on. Lots of vanilla. And just a nice amount of smoke at the end.
Taste: Nectarine, coconut milk, biscuit, mint, grass, oak, malt
More fruit! More cream! The king demands it! Oh… wait, that’s the next malt, got too ahead of myself.
Lots of grass notes here. Nothing offensive, but it very much is staying within the “nice” zone. Not trying anything crazy, nor delivering, but not screwing up at the same time.
Finish: Peach, spearmint, sandalwood, smoke, butter, oak
Finish is interesting. Lighter than I’d want. The sandalwood note is unique, so I’ll give it that. Otherwise… meh? Again, not annoying or rough, very easy to drink.
Conclusion: Look, it’s smooth. And I know that’s a typical put down, so I feel the need to explain that I don’t hate it. Heck, it’s not too bad.
The pros? Well this has no rough parts. It’s easy to drink, very inviting, has a very nice nose with some surprising complexity, and has a unique element to it’s finish.
Is it for whisky nerds? Hell no. This whisky is for people who don’t want to have to break down a whisky. It’s upfront, nice tasting, doesn’t have anything too crazy, and can be drank easily enough. I spent extra time with it, and basically didn’t feel it evolved too much.
This is the everyman’s version of a really great whisky. You could pour this for anyone and they’d go “Hey, I like this. Is it whisky?” and be happy. If that’s for you, then go for it.
Personally I’ll stick with the Gold, as I liked it a little bit better.
Up next we have Johnnie Walker Blue King George V. This limited edition is to commemorate the granting of the Royal Warrant to Johnnie Walker on January 1, 1934.
So this time we’re celebrating the crown. Well no one can be perfect, I guess.
This whisky is created using whiskies from distilleries that were operating during King George V’s 25 year reign (1910-1936). It also includes some Port Ellen, and other distilleries that are not around.
Other than the Port Ellen, I couldn’t tell you what the others are, because Johnnie Walker ain’t telling either.
So we have another blend, sometimes compared to the above high end version, and all of that comes in a fancy decanter (not for me, I just bought one sample). Let’s see how it compares, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 10YR 8/10
Nose: Floral, lemongrass, peach syrup, graham cracker crust, algae, caramel
Different nose than the JW Blue, and it’s at this point in the tasting I realize they are different recipes and wonder why I am comparing them.
Then I grasp at straws, go for the whole “commemorating” thing and breathe a sigh of relief.
More floral aspects to this one. Still has a butter aspect, however here there’s an odd vegetal note.
Taste: Mint, brown butter, quince, grass, cream, burnt caramel
Again, floral is the name of the game. And some fruit, some caramel/brown butter, but mostly floral.
Much like the above, it’s trying it’s darndest to avoid anything too nuts. If you’re not a floral fan, it may not be for you though.
Finish: Almond, corn flour, honeycomb, lemon, nectarine, sand
Finish is quite dry. Lots of dry flavours, more so, rather than an overall dry idea. Like a dry commune over a dry art group project, if you will.
You probably won’t. Some nuttiness and the honey saves this finish.
Conclusion: It’s certainly interesting, but I’m just not getting the “and then some”. Or the follow up. Or whatever I am trying to say.
See, I get the floral aspect, and I like that. And I get the butter. But beyond an odd algae flavour, caramel, and maybe those notes again and again, it doesn’t wow me.
It should. I love floral drams. And there are parts of this that say “Hey, it’s a Lowland, nice”. But otherwise… it leads me towards a path and then runs off with my wife, leaving me alone. There’s no conclusion. I wanted more, I didn’t get it. Oh well. Hooray to George V.
Congrats on being a lot better than your idiot Nazi-sympathizer son.
Scotch reviews #569-570, Blend reviews #61-62, Whisky Network reviews #945-946
1001 Whiskies You Must Taste Before You Die review #317 (Johnnie Walker Blue Label)
101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die review #72 (Johnnie Walker Blue King George V)