Category Archives: Johnnie Walker VM

Johnnie Walker Black Label ‘Islay Origin’ 12-year-old, 1 litre

Bought: World of Whisky at Heathrow, 22nd February 2020

Ratings:

83.71/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)

If you find yourself in an airport duty free shop and you spot a new whisky you fancy for £30 (or your currency equivalent) I have two words for you – “BUY IT!” I failed to do this with a new range of Glen Grant and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. So when I saw Johnnie Walker (JW) had released four new versions of their 12yo, £30 each for 1 litre bottles, my eyes lit up. With my 5% travel discount from ‘RED by Dufry’ this made it £28.50 per bottle. Since then the price has gone up to £35 at the airports and as much as £52 from online whisky shops (although £45 on Amazon). A bottle at auction went for as much as £55!

I only wanted to buy one of the four bottles, which were divided into the Scottish whisky regions of Speyside, Islay, Highland and Lowland. I’ve been in the malt game long enough to know that Islay is the one for me. Even if it’s mediocre the Islay flavours are going to be interesting. If any of the other regions are mediocre then there’s a chance they’ll be boring, which nobody wants. But with tasting notes that include iodine, sherry, smoke, toffee, red fruits, meaty and full, it sounds like Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain with a few other Islay classics thrown in for good measure. It’s also a vatted/blended malt (like the JW 15yo Green) so no grain in the mix to confuse matters.

Scoring nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score but only from 9 member votes so far. Over on Amazon the rating is 4.6/5 from 88 global votes but only 3 written reviews from the UK. Most are from Germany where JW must be more popular or simply more available. Indeed Whiskybase list 4 suppliers of this Islay Johnnie Walker, the majority of which are in Germany and none in the UK. Comments online include, “perfectly balanced sweet peated entry level, yet complex”, “lovely and very good value” and “like eating toffee apples at a bonfire. Would recommend to anyone.”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Iodine, toffee, orange, you’d swear there was some sherry here though apparently there isn’t.

Palate: In the mouth it’s peppery with dried fruit, fresh red fruits and honey, with the smoke lingering but not dominating. Meaty and full.

Finish: Smoke and a little toffee.

Johnnie Walker Green Label (2015 -)

Bought: World Duty Free, 22nd March 2016

Ratings:
82.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes) for 100cl version
84/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)

The Johnnie Walker ‘Green Label’ first appeared in 2005 but by 2013 it was discontinued everywhere other than in Asia. In 2015 it returned (hurray!) with a limited edition to mark its 10-year anniversary. But rather than disappear again it has remained due to popular demand, and by having enough stock of the whisky that go into this blended malt. As it states on the box this is a vatting together of Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila, which all have to be a minimum of 15 years old. And with no grain whisky to interfere with the mix you get to play a guessing game as to which of these 4 classic single malts you can spot in the taste.

Even though it’s been 2 years since the Green Label (GL) returned I see that Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ book still contains his review from many years ago (95/100) so I haven’t included that. 82.6/100 on Whiskybase is for my 100cl version but the 70cl scores higher with 83.4/100 from 76 votes (it’s the same stuff in both bottles). That’s a pretty good score. Comments include “no big challenge, no need of too much attention. Simple but decent”, “what it lacks is a bit of power, but then again, the balance between subtle smoke and sweetness is well-done” and “initial taste is very good and promising, but the body never delivers. And it’s just downhill from there, with an almost non existing finish.”

Although ratings appear to be good the new GL clearly has its faults, especially to those who tried the previous incarnation. When Ralfy did his first YouTube review of the GL in 2010 he scored it a fantastic 89/100 but in his re-review in 2016 (below) he’s downgraded it to 84/100. He felt it had been slightly sanitised since his last review. ‘Malts of Montreal’ says in his YouTube review of September 2015 (here) that the old version was more smoky and peaty whereas the new GL is sweeter. This could well upset the Coal Ila and Talisker fans and I certainly didn’t taste as much Talisker as I was hoping when I tried it. But overall, without comparison to the previous version, the Johnnie Walker Green Label is a good blended malt and an enjoyable experience on the palate.

Ralfy’s thoughts on YouTube (April 2016):

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Bought – ASDA, 25th October 2013

Ratings:
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2010 & 2012
89/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Johnnie Walker Green Label – YouTube

As Ralfy says “arguably the best of the entire Johnnie Walker range” and it’s his personal Johnnie Walker favourite. Well worth watching his review. It was recorded back in 2010 when Green Label was easy to come by but it has now been discontinued (apparently). There’s several comments about this below the video with Ralfy saying 2 months ago that the Green Label is only available in Taiwan. He goes on to say “now last-stock (I’m told) on shop shelves, a proper collectable!”

The only local source I could find for the Green Label was ASDA. Links I found online often lead to whisky shops saying it was “no longer in stock”. One link showed an old price of £40 but when I clicked through to the shop the latest price was £50! Thankfully it was nearly half that in ASDA. It’s tempting not to drink it and put it away for a decade or two and then see how much it’s worth. But I haven’t tasted it yet, so scrub that idea!

Another confirmation about the demise of the Green Label is its omission from the Whisky Bible 2013. In the 2010 and 2012 editions it was awarded ‘Scotch Vatted Malt Of The Year’ with 95/100. It seems a shame that such a good whisky is to become a thing of the past.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 70cl