Johnnie Walker Green Label
Johnnie Walker is ubiquitous to the point of being infamous, It’s probably the one Scotch whisky everyone knows by name. The walking man logo no matter how gussied up for the times is another instantly recognizable icon for the uninitiated. It is also the whisky brand most likely to get shit on by hardcore whisky lovers and don’t get me wrong sometimes it deserves it.
They are owned by the brand whisky connoisseurs love to hate. To make an analogy if whisky was Star Wars, Diageo could be an exact stand in for the empire. Yet we cannot ignore that Johnny Walker is the gateway for many people. Black label is one of the main reasons I fell back in love with Scotch whisky again after a long love affair with it’s Canadian brethren, I love that shit to pieces.
Of all the many whiskers under the JW moniker, green label was/is the anomaly in the range. It was first released at the tail end of the nineties, a blended malt (formerly called vatted malt) a blend of single malts it contains no grain whisky to pad it out. The price was reasonable 50$ to 70$, it had an age statement of 15 years. This should have given it sex appeal but I think it caused the opposite.
The very things that made it an asset also hampered it. The reasonable price should have made it a perfect stepping stone for red and black label drinkers but didn’t. It also didn’t have enough of a bling factor and panache to draw consumers of the gold and blue label. Vatted malts/pure malts did not have the hip factor they do now and many single malt drinkers didn’t see why you’d waste your time on this blend, this was also a time where a 15-18 yr single malt weren’t quite the bank busters they are now.
Despite all this it still green label gained a cult status of sorts, so when Diageo announced in 2012 that it would be pulling the green out of most of its markets while doing a little re-branding of the JW line-up it obviously upset quite a few people.
They claimed poor sales and other malarkey, the reality is probably an amalgam of different reasons. They we’re probably taxing their stocks of Caol Ila and Talisker pretty thin at one point, those two provide the smoky/peaty backbone for most JW blends. They could also sell the individual component malts for much more money to the growing “luxury” segment of the market. Lastly like many spirit producers they we’re looking towards the promise land that was supposed to be the growing Asian market…Shangri-La as you would. This market failed to boom and as a result in early 2015 we saw a limited amount of green label showing up on shelves, with a confirmed return at the beginning of 2016.
Enough blabbing lets dive in.
Nose: the smoke is pretty prominent at first nosing , fresh cut apples and pears, barley sugar, nectar and blossoms. A slight feeling of cider, orange peels and a big malty backbone.
Palate: Rich and sweet, then the smoke hits, peppery at first but also that feeling of beach bonfire, not dirty peat but a slight iodine and ozone like feeling. Then orange oils and tobacco accents. There is fruits, the peated components are kept in check by the other flavors honey, a roundess from the oak, then marmalade and a slight touch of milk chocolate.
The finish is long, sustaining the rich malty side, this pleasant sweetness and peppery smoke.
This is a different beast than the original but I prefer this new incarnation, it’s such s rich dram, the smoke is present but somehow is so well integrated into the other elements.