Johnnie Walker Blue Label Brora and Rare / Ghost and Rare “Ghost Pressure”

Ok I promise this is my last JW review for a bit, I’m not going to repeat the marketing spiel as I am not a brand ambassador, some casks (who knows how much of anything) of silent distilleries unnecessarily gave up their lives to be included in this blend…maybe.

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This is where precious rare malts go to die

Nose: Suave, old oak /present but not overpowering, a little guava, smoke, dirt floors in a damp warehouse, waxy, a lot like regular blue label in it’s cohesiveness. Supple, slightly mineral, soft fruits, Mirabelles, apricots.

Palate : Musky peat turning into exotic fruits: longan, jack fruit, durian maybe?. A mounting astringency, aspirin, shoe polish and oak.

Finish is on old oak, polish, lemon pith, earth, the fruits are overridden by resiny pine, much bitterness.

Nice nose, the palate is ruined by the bitterness/ lemon pith/resin, I love these kind of notes in a whisky but the backbone isn’t robust enough to withstand it, unlike Springbank or Clynelish for example.

This is an example of where transparency would really help to better understand what is happening. What is one getting exactly for this price? what proportions of malt to grain, old to new, they could put one cask of Brora in a Tun of young whisky and one wouldn’t know.

Better value for money in Compass Box or Douglas Laing Regional Malts.

Johnnie Walker Ghost & Rare Brora Edition

46% ABV

82/100 *I took my time on this one but it’s still something I sampled in store so I’m only giving it an overall score, my standard method is multiple samples before reviewing so I can score each aspect.

Teeling Small Batch – “Rhum Baba and fresh laundry”

Teeling Small Batch Rum Finish

46%/ABV

The final review of the budget trifecta from my club’s blind tasting in March.

I chose this for a myriad of reasons, I knew I wanted to throw a blend into the mix and an Irish blended whisky was the curve ball I needed. Besides the Teeling Single Malt was extremely well received in a past session and was curious to see if the blend would be of similar quality.

Yes I’m getting on with it.

Nose: It’s rather sweet on opening, coton candy, caramel corn, then shows its youth and grain with varnish and copper smell.

Rising dough, vanilla, banana chips, trail mix. There’s a feeling of celery and lanolin.

Palate: much like the nose to begin with, sweet things, cotton candy, creamy vanilla, caramel, underripe banana. A slight feeling of violets like a popular brand of fabric softener, brioche and a hint of mozzarella cheese, all of this is sitting on a fairly grain forward blanket.

Finish: barrel char, heavy cream and Rhum Baba. The texture is oily but it doesn’t end too sweet despite the sweet aromas.

During my blind tastings, I thought this was the Deanston Virgin oak. How wrong was I?

All things told, it has some interesting nuances but it’s fairly rough and at times strange. The abv which is an asset in the Teeling Single malt, is definitely highlighting the rawness. It’s decent if a bit high priced for what it is.

81/100

Franck

Nikka Taketsuru

Nikka Taketsuru “Pure Malt NAS”

43% Alc/vol

83/100

The craze for Japanese whisky is still in full swing, some blame Jim Murray’s 2014 proclamation that Japanese Whisky was the best in the world as one of the catalysts for this state of affairs, as much as he at times deserves the bashing, we can’t blame Sauron for everything.

sauron

The reasons are myriad, a burgeoning interest in world whiskys, the rise of whisky as an investment or flippers. I doubt many of these overpriced bottles of Yamazaki Sherry cask  or Karuizawa are actually being opened and enjoyed.

Whatever the reason the result is pretty much what one is seeing in Scotland but at an accelerated rate. Expressions losing their age statements but prices remaining the same, ABV’s being lowered, Increase of new NAS releases and special releases, an increase in the marketing of grain whiskys. With the added factor that anything Japanese that can vaguely be passed under the whisky category is instantly pushed onto the market, rice whisky & aged sochu and such,  I’m not against these but they are often shamelessly marketed with little regards to their quality. There are other effects and this post on Nonjatta gives you the news from the perspective of someone on the ground.

I know it sounds like a lot of nagging or nit-picking but sadly it’s just the facts.

On to today’s whisky I’ve had occasion to try this a few times and it scored very well with club members the first time around. It is a house blend of the different types of malt whiskies that are produced at both Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries…maybe.

y this dark photo of a bookshelf containing said whisky
I have no close-up picture of this whisky

Nose: Tinned fruits in syrup, there is a rounded malty side, coffee cake soaked in a sherry syrup. There is a dark note like charcoal and umeboshi, buckwheat honey, it’s got a oxidized/sulfury side a hint of a sherry influence.

Palate: Pickled ginger on arrival, sweet and creamy malt and in the background earthy peat (not at all Islay like). A bit of heat despite the low strength, complex sweetness like honey then mineral and slightly waxy, there is some tannic oak and again that feeling of tinned fruits from the nose.

The main tastes fade quickly from the tongue but there is a creamy sweetness that remains on the finish.

While the combination of flavors is somewhat singular it doesn’t dive deeply enough into those slightly exotic notes (rare woods and that weird pickled plum dark note) to make a lasting impression. I enjoy having a glass of this but could not see myself buying a full bottle, plus it’s a dreaded NASty release, transparency apostles may wish to abstain.

Franck

Johnnie Walker Green Label

 

 

Johnnie Walker Green Label 

43% Alc./Vol.

84/100

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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.

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Diageo’s Dr. Nick Morgan?

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.

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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.

Franck