Paying for prestige.
Let’s get that out of the way right off. There is simply no way around it. For those not immersed in the wonderful world of whisky, Johnnie Walker Blue is often thought of as the Holy Grail of scotch. It sits top shelf in liquor stores; commands >$20 an ounce in restaurants and pubs; and is oft gifted for special occasions. Every bottle is numbered and sold in a certified silk-lined box. According to JW, all of the whiskies used in the composition of this blend are at least 20 years old.
Sounds alright, huh? I have now tasted this on a couple of occasions and can say, without any doubt or hesitation…meh.
I have mentioned many times throughout reviews and writings here, do not be fooled by presentation or reputation. Let your palate be your guide. Don’t let anything but your senses decide for you. Let’s face it…aside from our palate, we have one other guide. Our chequebook. Can your palate convince you this is a fine dram? Undoubtedly. Can your chequebook? Simply…no.
Johnnie Walker Blue is unquestionably good. It is beautifully balanced and ever so smooth. It is pleasant and enjoyable, delicious and almost refreshing. But so are hundreds of other malts that will cost a fraction of what this will set you back. As a rule, I do not like bringing price into the equation when reviewing whiskies, but there are times when it absolutely must become an element. JWB is going to cost you ~$200 a bottle.
I think that needs to sink in for a moment.
~$200 a bottle for a branded, colored, chill-filtered, 43% blended whisky.
Okay. Deep breath. I am finished casting insolent glares at the figures behind this whisky. How ’bout the product itself?
Well…it’s tasty. Caramel sweetness, a bit of spice, characteristic JW smoke in the back, some smooth vanilla and mild berry. I think I am getting a little bit of light orange fruit as well. Generally a few drops of water will bring out a little more, but I’m not really a ‘water in whisky’ kinda guy and at 43% I would be afraid of drowning this, so I’ll leave it as simple tasting notes.
It has a thick creamy body and nice mouth-coating quality to it. Not much more will creep forth on the palate from what you’ll pick up on the nose. In fact, the fruitier notes seem to get buried a little here. The flavors are mild and well-mannered. Highest marks here are saved for balance. Not a bad note to be found. In fact it almost lacks distinction because of this tightly-woven tapestry of blending. Can I fault a whisky for being too smooth? Well, no…I wouldn’t deduct points, but should point out to you…when searching for that special diamond ring, shouldn’t there be a beautiful gem that sits in the forefront of the setting? JWB seems to lack that. This is simply too mediocre to justify the cost.
Final notes…it does dry nicely in the mouth and leaves a touch of wood and (very) mild smoke behind. Also a hint of tart fruit skins. Not a bad finish.
To be honest…stick with the Black Label. Trust me.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt