Tag Archives: World Duty Free

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

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


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

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):

Glenfiddich ‘Reserve Cask’

Bought: World Duty Free (Aberdeen airport), 17th September 2016

83/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
80.18/100 – Whiskybase (average from 46 member votes)

Introduced in 2013, the ‘Reserve Cask’ is priced in the middle of the three ‘Cask Collection’ by Glenfiddich between the cheaper ‘Select Cask’ and more expensive ‘Vintage Cask’. And from the reviews online it seems the ‘Reserve Cask’ is middle for quality too. Glenfiddich know their whisky so they were never going to get this wrong. 83/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the ‘Reserve Cask’ as “good whisky worth trying” and the author says, “soft, chewy, occasionally sparkling but the overdose of toffee and disappointing degree of late furriness means its speech is distinctly limited in its topic.”

Just over 80/100 on Whiskybase suggests a good but fairly average whisky, which is what you’d expect from the price point. Comments include “it is a rich, deliciously smooth, sweet and silky single malt with a complex flavour profile. An extremely savoury, creamy and intriguing dram.” and “not my favorite Glenfiddich, but very affordable”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Waxy peels, marmalade and Christmas-y clove warmth. Vanilla, raisin and a touch of dark chocolate.

Palate: Christmas spice up front, joined by fresh lemon, chewy barley, almonds and a little old oak.

Finish: Long, with a good balance of sweet citrus and oak spices.

Expert whisky taster Mark Dermul scores the ‘Reserve Cask’ a typical 80/100. Here are his thoughts on You Tube (January 2016):


Glenfiddich ‘Select Cask’

Bought: World Duty Free (Aberdeen airport), 17th September 2016

78.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
79.31/100 – Whiskybase (average from 64 member votes)

I find it hard to believe it’s three years since the Glenfiddich ‘Cask Collection’ first appeared as a Travel Retail exclusive in 2013. It doesn’t feel that long. Perhaps it took me a while to notice because I’m not a huge fan of Glenfiddich. I feel they are more Ford than Ferrari, with a focus on mass production rather than high quality. The standard 12yo is OK but that’s about it, it’s just OK. If their Cask Collection had set the whisky world alight in 2013 I might have pounced on a bottle sooner but it didn’t. Ratings for the entry level ‘Select Cask’ are what you’d expect for a non-age statement 1 litre bottle for £40.

In fairness to the Select Cask its life in bourbon, European oak and red wine casks are an interesting heritage but does this tri-union of wood really work? Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible doesn’t think so. He says, “bourbon and wine casks may be married together…but they are on a course for a messy divorce. The honeymoon on delivery is pretty rich and exotic. But it is all too short-lived as things soon turn pretty bitter.” His score of 78.5/100 is low for him and classifies this single malt as “average, and usually pleasant but sometimes flawed.”

79.31/100 on Whiskybase suggests the Select Cask is good but nothing special. Comments online are a bit more generous than in the Whisky Bible including “very sweet but still spicy, at the end rather short but still all right.” And “it’s light and very drinkable”.

Several reviews say the Select Cask is a good ‘session’ whisky, where the gathering is more sociable than focusing on the quality of the drink. Mark Dermul in his You Tube video below concurs with this by saying the Select Cask would go well during a night of playing cards with friends. Here’s his thoughts (February 2016):


Glenmorangie ‘Tayne’

Bought: World Duty Free, 29th March 2016

87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
81.6/100 – Whiskybase (from 17 member votes)

The ‘Tayne’ is Glenmorangie’s second bottle in their ‘Legends’ series following on from ‘The Duthac’. Both are 1 litre and Travel Retail exclusives. Usually that means it’s available in lots of shops on mainland Europe but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Tayne. Surely not an ‘exclusive’ that’s actually exclusive? {faints}

87.5/100 in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ classifies this malt as “good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying” and his review consists of “tangy back story. But also a curious early combination between butterscotch and Werther’s Original candy. The malt – topped with a splash of double cream – in the centre ground, though, is the star showing.”

81.6/100 on Whiskybase is a good mark but not outstanding. Comments include “this is a good sherry whisky. Dark fruits, a spicy sweetness and well balanced. Good whisky for the money, nice.” Dramlicious score the Tayne 84/100 and their review and tasting notes can be found here.

Here’s WhiskyWise giving us his thoughts on You Tube in his very first whisky review video (April 2016):

Glenmorangie Tayne NAS 100cl

Glenmorangie ‘The Duthac’

Bought: World Duty Free, 10th September 2015

83.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 42 member votes)

The ‘Duthac’ is the first of a new range of whiskies by Glenmorangie that they’re titling the ‘Legends Collection’. According to the official Glenmorangie video below this new dram is “a whisky fit for a king, Glenmorangie Duthac honours the annual pilgrimage of King James IV to the shrine of St Duthac – the patron Saint of Tain – at the home of Glenmorangie. Exclusive to Travel Retail, Duthac is the first release from the Glenmorangie Legends collection, a unique range of single malt whiskies inspired by the legendary lands that have been home to the Glenmorangie Distillery since 1843.”

Try as I might, I can’t find the name of the next whisky to be added to the ‘Legends Collection’ but I bet it will be more expensive (but still a non-age statement). By the time we get to the 3rd of 4th release in the collection I imagine it will be closing in on £150-£200. All part of the cunning plan to get collectors hooked so they feel compelled to shell out a fortune for the final releases. I think I’ll pass but I’m glad to see a solid 83.6/100 for this single malt on Whiskybase. And it’s 100cl so there’s more to enjoy.

Here’s Whisky Whistle with their thoughts about The Duthac on YouTube (Nov 2015):

Glenmorangie Duthac NAS 100cl

Glenmorangie ‘Dornoch’

Bought: World Duty Free, 10th September 2015

94/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 67 member votes)

My return to Gatwick airport sees me in the mood for a Glenmorangie or two. The Dornoch claims to be a limited release but if it’s anything like the Glenmorangie 18yo ‘Extremely Rare’ I expect to see this bottle all over the world for several years to come. Whiskybase list the availability of this whisky in 9 shops across Germany, Holland and Austria as well as lots of airports around the UK.

To quote the box – “in celebration of the Glenmorangie distillery’s unique location, a donation from every bottle will be given to the Marine Conservation Society for the protection of the Dornoch Firth” hence of name of this whisky (the distillery overlooks the firth). It’s always nice to know that my purchase has gone towards helping nature.

94/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Dornoch as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. The author says about the taste “even on delivery the malt arrives on all levels and in different hues, ranging from sweet and fresh to a duller, oak-dried digestive biscuit – but quite tightly bound” and he concludes with “a real treat”.

Over 83/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable mark but nothing special. Several comments are quite critical including “the nose is pretty good, but the taste seems a bit ‘constructed’” and “a mediocre release” but thankfully one voter is a bit more positive with “I like the style and I definitely had worse Glenmorangies in my glass…I like!”

Here’s Horst Luening with his thoughts on You Tube (November 2015):

Glenmorangie Dornoch NAS 70cl

Johnnie Walker ‘The Spice Road’

Bought: World Duty Free, 2nd July 2015

84.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
77/100 – Whiskybase (average from 10 member votes)

A 1 litre Johnnie Walker on sale for £25 with the word ‘spice’ in the title – YES PLEASE! This bottle is the cheapest of the JW ‘Explorer Club’ series that Diageo have put together for Travel Retail shops in airports. Apparently Diageo were successfully sued by the real Explorer Club for using their name – ooops! But there were no hard feelings as Diageo have now become a corporate sponsor of the club. One small boo-boo by Diageo, one giant cheque for explorer-kind.

77/100 on Whiskybase is a so-so score for a blend but Jim Murray’s 84.5/100 in his Whisky Bible classifies this JW as “good whisky worth buying”. Mr Murray’s whole review consists of “sublime delivery of exceptionally intense juiciness: in fact probably the juiciest blend released this year. But the bitter, fuzzy finish reveals certain casks haven’t helped.” As noted before, several of the JW range have a problem with their finish. More reason to get quickly to the next sip!

Johnnie Walker The Spice Road NAS 100cl

Kilchoman ‘Coull Point’

Bought: World Duty Free, 2nd July 2015

84.48/100 – Whiskybase (average from 35 member votes)

This Kilchoman is a Travel Retail exclusive, which usually means it’s available outside of the UK and several places within. This doesn’t appear to be the case with the ‘Coull Point’, which I first saw in UK airports in 2014. I spoke to an employee at the ‘World of Whisky’ shop in Gatwick airport who said his company had bought up all the stock. Since Kilchoman is a small distillery, I believe him. The Whisky Barrel in the UK is trying to sell it for £200 but they clearly got their stock from the airports where it’s only £50. A £150 mark-up?! Seriously?! You can buy bottles at auction for around £50-£60.

84.5/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark. It seems hard to dislike Kilchoman. The distillery is probably the best success story in the whisky world in recent years. Comments from Whiskybase members include “nice whisky”, “a very active, young interesting thing with a character of its own and a lot of potential” and “one of Kilchoman’s most successful presentations to date”.

If you can find the Kilchoman ‘Coull Point’ at an airport for £50 I’d recommend getting a bottle. Not only is it good to drink but also it has potential as an investment.

Kilchoman Coull Point NAS 70cl

Bowmore ‘Black Rock’

Bought: World Duty Free, 2nd July 2015

87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
79.48/100 – Whiskybase (average from 152 member votes)

Before I go to an airport I like to plan in advance what whisky I’m interested in. This might work if ‘World Duty Free’ list all their available whisky online but they don’t. When I got to Gatwick airport I discovered several new spirits including this Bowmore. It was also reduced to £40, which seemed very reasonable for a 1ltr bottle. I quite like the subtle Islay flavours of Bowmore so I decided to take the plunge and buy a bottle, even if it was obviously riddled with caramel colourant.

Around 80/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable mark but it doesn’t help that one member rated it 1/100 even though they loved it. You have to hope that the other 151 voters managed to get the scoring system correct. A member scoring the ‘Black Rock’ 85/100 said “while I’ve had better Bowmores, this is a surprisingly well made dram. It’s young alright but it does not suffer the young age maladies, and feels very good on the palate, with the right balance of peat and sherry. A good buy if you’re a Bowmore fan and you’re travelling soon. I liked it quite a bit.”

Scoring 87.5/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible classifies the Black Rock as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. He describes it as a friendly, full-bodied dram with smoked toasted fudge as the main theme with a vague backdrop of cinnamon and marmalade. He summarises with “if you are looking for a gentle giant, they don’t come more wimpish than this”.

Here is a whisky tasting by Horst Luening of Whisky.com (YouTube Sept 2014):

Bowmore Black Rock NAS 100cl