Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Island Green

Style: Sweet and Smoky

Nose:

Fresh ginger and pine opening, followed by a good dose of ester, yellow fruits. Hickory smoke lunges forward and we are offered plenty of youthful Caol Ila here… Down a level there’s mossy peat, lemon cup cakes, chilli heat casually switching on and off.

Palate:

Bold, sweet fruits and barbeque smoke entwined together nicely at the front palate. Feels like a big, fat layer of tropical fruits agar jelly shielding a stronger-than-usual coal fire peat. Every sip of coconut cream comes with an ashy back palate. Bonfire and lemon custard tart forming a steady under layer. Forest greens, plenty of white peppercorns come with a small wave of chilli heat teasing at the back.

Finish:

Ester fruits taking a step back while the coal smoke continues to take the lime light at the front. Quite good.

Thoughts:

Although it is bottled under the Green label, the malt components are actually different than the general one. Island Green is a blend of Glenkinchie, Caol Ila, Clynelish and Cardhu (While the general Green label is consisted of Linkwood, Talisker, Cragganmore and Caol Ila), so you might expect the expression to be a bit different, and so it is. A young blend no doubt, I feel there is more peated Caol Ila involved to give extra smokiness to the spirit, while the additional sweetness (I suspect it’s Cardhu) is utilized to buffer the peat and the others to balance the spirit. A simple but elegant interpretation, I like it. Very approachable for people who haven’t tried smoky whiskies but want to give it a go.

✓ [Recommend if you like the style/ distillery]

[43% • Circa 2016 • Blended Malt Scotch Whisky • No Age Statement • Travel Retail Exclusive • t+]

-Esmond

Thanks Simon for the bottle, you are a legend!

 

Dram Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare

[46.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2018・Johnnie Walker Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Quite a smoky presence upfront, the peat leaves a quick impression alongside minerals and limestone. Hearty malt, soft honey and candle wax follow the initial peaty impression. There is a meaty lowland presence in the mix with soft fruits, crisp red apples, ripe banana, sultana and can pineapples balanced by hazelnuts, white chocolate, sandalwood and white pepper. It grows a bit sooty and chalky in time.

Palate & Finish:

A voluminous front palate made of honey and soft fruits – poached apples, cured pineapples and caramelised banana bringing about a full on tropical jammy sweetness as the mellow pear smoke run beneath it on the mid-palate. A splash of pepper and spices injects a liveliness to the juicy affair as the earthy woodiness showcases some of the components’ age, with the sweetened hazelnut cream providing a nutty afterthought.

Mild finish, clean barley sweetness drags on with some grain spices. Grows a tad dry like an earthy piccolo.

Thoughts:

The Brora fan in me likes how the distillery’s smoky years were subtly incorporated.

Rather than giving a full on Brora experience, Mr. Jim Beveridge did well by using 7 other grains and malts to highlight the period-specific characters of Brora, utilising their soft fruitiness to draw out the complementary Brora notes.

Quite a clever interpretation.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

P.S. Thank you to Mr. Simon McGoram, Ms. Liz Hunt, Ms. Sarah Rhodes and the rest of the Diageo and Leo Burnett Sydney team for arranging the tasting experience. It is much appreciated.

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label “The Casks Edition”

Style: Rich and Spicy

Nose:

A simultaneous display of both sweetness and dryness here. Dried fruits and red liquorice wrapped around by robust peppermint. Plenty of dry spices laying around, complex overtone of white pepper, brass and meat stock. Honey drops bouncing off green tea leaves. Sweet, bit icy and meaty at the back.

Palate:

Delicate stewed fruits highlighted by more robust peppermint and dry spices. Double drizzle of honey and caramel over a stack of fragrant tobacco leaves. Chocolate sauce, earthy red liquorice, a brimming layer of honeycomb wax, barley sugar infused with bonfire peat. Brassy touch and fresh peppermint leaves. Vanilla cereal singing softly, finishes with a faint meaty track.

Finish:

Red strawberries, honey drop and deep malty notes. The waxiness lingers on for quite a while. Pretty nice.

Thoughts:

This does not feel like an upgraded version of the regular Johnnie Walker Blue Label, a very different beast, if you ask me. Quite rich and significantly louder. A wide array of elements carried by the powerful spice – young feisty malt leading the charge, sonorous earthy red fruits core anchors in the middle (I don’t know what’s the main malt here, but my money is on Talisker), a generous brush of honey wax from what feels like older cask(s) and several overtones high in the air… The complexities, and layering, on offer here are almost stunning. Maybe the spices are a bit too sharply cut here, but the flavours are delicious no doubt. A robust, splendid blend right here.

☆ [Recommended]

[55.8% • 2012 Bottled • Blended Scotch • Travel Retail Exclusive • No Age Statement • Cask Strength • Bottle Number: CE4 49375 • 8]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Espresso Roast Exp#9

[43.2%・NAS・Bottled in 2017・Johnnie Walker Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Muscovado syrup with a hue of Speysider grassy top note. The oomph of toasted coffee bean is understated with a vague seaweed-y peat note sipping out. The wee grain grittiness wears thin and it draws a soft gingery kick.

Palate & Finish:

Can pineapples with the charred oak note ingrained, the youthful Islay component provides a wee iodine note. This is followed by a wholesome blend of nutmeg, dark chocolate and earthy coffee ground, Sunday morning perhaps? Traces of peat and toasted nuts in the background as well.

Distant bushfire in the finish with a faint ashiness, brushed with chocolate sundae sauce.

Thoughts:

A rather inspiring profile with the complexity led by the deep roasted barley but I wish this could be more robust.

If they could bring out a higher strength version whilst keeping that balance, it’d probably be one of the most revolutionary releases Johnnie has brought out in a while.

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Rum Cask Finish Exp#8

Style: Delicate and Fruity

Nose:

Sweet pineapple unwinding over a thin line of pulled pork. Caramel sugar cascading with dry spices. A fragrant touch on bright tropical fruits, very nice squeeze of green lime which lunges from the back. Pretty well constructed aroma.

Palate:

A much fuzzier delivery on the palate. Vanilla milk clouding over tropical fruits punchbowl, papaya dices and coconut jelly in the mix. Fair bit of lime cordial floating over the cereal malt, a light brush of caramel syrup, it feels the rum characters have infused nicely into the spirit. Copper overtone, shattered dry spices snowing down – cinnamon bark, vanilla pod and star anise. Flavours quickly fading towards the end.

Finish:

Flavours fading rather quickly. Tropical fruits on a full retreat, vanilla switches to the drier side. An oatmeal tail.

Thoughts:

This is actually better than I first tried it. Some might find the delivery is too soft. Pretty laid back flavours, the rum character is pretty upfront, which is not always the case of rum cask finish. The spirit have combined with it to generate nice fruitiness – almost like a cocktail itself (while the whisky is actually designed for making cocktails). Clean structuring, maybe you can make a good highball out of it I guess. Not bad for a introductory whisky as well.

[40.8% • Blended Scotch • Limited Edition • Bottle Number: RCF1 04546 • x]

-Esmond

Thank you Johnnie Walker, Diageo Australia, Sweet&Chilli and Leo Burnett Sydney for the bottle.  

Dram Review: Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years

[40.0%・18 Years Old・Bottled in 2017・Johnnie Walker Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

The nose is on the approachable side, ripe fruits, marmalade with pear sweets and a light splash of grain spirit spices.  Just underneath lays a hint apple cider vinegar with the light creaminess and sandalwood interwinding together.  In the background, there’re traces of mineral water laced with a vague smoke.  The level of intensity maintains on the same level through out as the burnt toast reveals itself over time as does a matchstick box.

Palate & Finish:

Early entries from the raisins and sultana, it’s quite a sweet delivery defined by its fruity quality.  Notes of cream sherry in play here giving the dram a bit of texture.  Brown sugar and milk chocolate with a bit of sugar coated almond nibs on the backend.

Medium finish with a hint of cinnamon bite whilst being mildly gingery.  Apple crumble, minerals and chocolate dust sipping out.

Thoughts:

The new 18 is a pleasant drop with an easy-to-get profile. The minerals don’t really bother me although I do find the presence quite curious.

I can’t remember if it is too different from the now discontinued Gold Label Reserve or Platinum Label, however as a solid release the 18 is well suited as an everyday whisky and as a festive dram for all the thirsty distant relatives after a feast.

Thank you Johnnie Walker, Diageo Australia, Sweet&Chilli and Leo Burnett Sydney for the bottle.  It is much appreciated.

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2017 Edition “Mastery of Oak”

Style: Honey oak and Spicy

Nose:
Sweet toffee entrance while spices trailing closely. A bit of grain influence slips through which can be felt pretty forefront. Vanilla, clean pear drops at the core while cereal notes and dry spices plunge in from the back – Nutmeg, cloves and vanilla beans. Subtle fruity honey radiating fragrance with a bit of oiliness in the aroma.

Palate:
Focus fire of sweet honey oak on the first touch. Generous marzipan, vanilla and malt biscuits follows as a layer of wood dryness hits an early timing. Subdued grains at work, spices slightly flaring up. Pear candy coat melting and dripping slowly. Tropical fruit blots disperses as dry spices giving a steady push to levitate the flavours. Massive oak influences dominating on multiple levels, timber shavings forming a powerful wood-driven tone. Finishes with another touch of cereal notes.

Finish:
Subtle honey stew fruits rises from the dry woodland. More pears, probably an ethereal touch of green peach. Rounded off with smooth vanilla cream.

Thoughts:
Quite an intriguing whisky we have here. There is a lot of (American) oak alright, while spices has punched above the weight and at times it is almost a good bourbon in a terrible disguise. Plenty of youthfulness, a bit feisty and loud. Yet for more than a few instances I am certain there is much more to that. The extra depth of sweetness, such smooth texture, solid oak, all pointing towards a lot of maturity. From my experience a wood-driven dram usually takes more time to unwind and maybe it is a dram you have to spend hours with it. To me somehow this whisky feels like an adult trapped inside a child’s body, or maybe it is totally something else… But it is definitely a good fun that you can only get from an interesting blend.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/distillery]

[46.8% • 2017 • Blended Scotch Whisky • No Age Statement • Non Chill Filtered • Limited Edition • 5588 Bottles]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

The Story

Johnnie Walker is introducing a new range of limited edition, experimental whiskies: Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch.
 
The Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch range lifts the lid on the skill and never-ending pursuit of flavour that drives the blending team, led by master blender Dr Jim Beveridge. The ongoing flavour experiments that Beveridge and his team study are a crucial part of their work, focusing on developing and understanding alternative flavours including wine, coffee and chocolate. 
 

Jim Beveridge said: “At any one time, there are hundreds of experiments into flavour being carried out by our blenders which involve making adjustments to atmospheric conditions, the types of wood and grain used, cask finishes and other elements of whisky-making in the pursuit of exceptional new flavours.”

 

Delicious Food pairing with the Blender’s Batch at the launch night

 

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

The first to be released in the series, Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish, is the result of experiments into the influence of bourbon and rye whiskey flavours on Scotch, inspired by the time Dr Beveridge spent blending bourbons and ryes in Kentucky in the 1990s.

Jim Beveridge said “For the first release, we wanted to focus on what happens when the intensely sweet flavours that can be found in bourbon and rye whiskies are brought together with the depth and subtlety of carefully crafted Scotch”.

The Blender’s Batch is a blend of grain and malt whiskies, with the signature Grain influence is coming from Port Dundas – It is now a demolished distillery and no longer exist. The other core whisky in this blend is Cardhu. I heard Cardhu is the very first distillery that Alex Walker (the founder of Johnnie Walker) purchased back in 1890s, it connects back to the heritage as well, the Speyside whisky contributes solid fruity flavours in here.

The other major focus in this particular glass is the fact that the whisky is cask finished – the whiskies are blended together and allowed them to finish for 6 months in Rye Cask, this will gives extra intensity and spiciness.

The intriguing part of this creation is the style is very indifferent and obscure, instead of focusing on traditions, rye cask finishing is actually a difficult thing to do – the influence from the rye cask tend to dominate easily, and it is hard to balance that flavour.

By Jim Beveridge’s own experimentation, inspired by his visit to Kentucky in the 1990s, where he studied how whiskies are made there. Then it is Emma Walker, who is one of the twelve Johnnie Walkers Blenders, have put forward this project when she interacted with bartenders, understanding how bartenders have been working with Rye whiskies over the last three or four years, as there was an incredible explosion of the popularity of Rye whiskies . This experiment batch aims to represent this trend, and produce a whisky for bartenders to work with.

Blender’s Batch with cocktail, I am no expert but a subtle hint of rye influence can be tasted, nice!

My Musings

This Red Rye Finish is the first release of the Blender’s Batch series, so we can look forward to many of Jim and his team’s experimentation to come. What is coming up next in the series remains in the dark but from what we have here it will be an interesting development.
For me, I am all for experiments like Blender’s Batch series as I believe experimentation is the ultimate way to advance in the realm of whisky. Making them available to the consumer’s market is a great idea because I feel trying products like this will also expand our horizons of tasting as we get to try novel, different flavour combinations. I love the concept and I love it more after tasting it. Although I feel if the whisky can be released at a slightly higher strength (maybe it will be too spicy perhaps?), the flavours will stand out better. Probably the product is also aimed to be utilized in cocktails, which is a field I am not particularly familiar with.

Tasting Notes

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

Style: Sweet and Dry Spices

Nose:

Robust grain influence on the nose, featuring crème brulee running with a touch of acidity from dried mangoes. Spice upholding the vanilla and honey core. Faint hint of five spices and sweet corn at the rim of the aroma.

Palate:
More grain signatures pumping onto the palate, rye influence starting to drift in. Creamy texture on forefront while spices darting in from behind. Pineapple notes in a mix of dried mangoes and papaya. Vanilla cream and honey drops, soft sweet corn brushes. A drying touch in the middle. Malt undertone is slowly unveiled towards the end while spice firing off to a light oak finish.

Finish:
Light oak, slightly drying, honey and creamy vanilla coating around nicely.

Thoughts:

Interesting whisky as I feel it aims to demonstrate the traits of rye, grain and malt whiskies at one go. The force of the grain and rye are pretty strong at times while the malt side a bit subdued, in the end they all have a part to play and this is unique to me. Sweet and creamy, nicely structured and I like how the spice is unleashed – such a nice glow. Decent, experimental dram.
 
[40%  2016 • Blended Malt • Batch #1 • Bottle Number: RR106013 • x]
Photo Credit to Leo Burnett Australia
-Esmond

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Green Label Aged 15 Years

 

Style: Delicate and Complex

Nose:

Vanilla cream with brushes of Jasmine flower on the nose. A quick punch of spice lights up the tempo, followed by light-hearted cedar wood and grassy notes unveiling a solid malt at the heart. Drying smoke and white pepper lurking at the bottom of the aroma. A very busy nose.

Palate:

Suggestive malt then we are brought upon magnificent nectarine notes which triumph on the palate… A savoury moment as the beautiful, clean sweetness come through! Malt beaming brilliantly, and slowly the tone swoops down to a more tannic and bitter peach pit note. Oranges and lemons releasing subtle hints of citrus spice. Finishes up with a bit of honey drizzle and fragrant wood at the end.

Finish:

Honey vanilla yoghurt spreading over fresh apricots and dried fruits. Soft and delicate.

Thoughts:

On the surface it is a light and delicate dram, but when you pay attention you will realise there is a lot going on in it – Not sure if it is because of the nature of blended malts. It has a clean structure with multiple layers, and I love the transition from the signature Linkwood garden fruits notes to the classy Cragganmore maltiness at the core, very delightful and complex! I think there is a good reason why Green Label is adored by many connoisseurs.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/distillery]

[43% • 2016 • Blended Scotch Malt Whisky  • General Release]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2015 Edition “Rare Fruit Character”

Style: Fruity and Complex

Nose:

Starts with a delightful malty nose. Plucked a splendid chord of rose petals, dried barley, simmered red dates with a tad of sourness, giving off a very all-rounded aroma. Light spices supports the structure in a non-invasive manner. A very entertaining nose.

Palate:

A fascinating blend of dry and fresh fruity notes. Dried figs, dates and orange peels mixes with vibrant and refreshing lychees, coconut and mint grassy notes. A busy palate as vanilla, oak, liquorice, chocolate and honey shooting in at different times and join the party. Tamed spice react at the very last moment to give a handsome buzz.

Finish:

Mix of complex fruitiness and malty notes at the finish. Hints of milk chocolate swing by and the remaining flavour coated around my tongue and leave a savoury sweetness, impressive ending to it.

Thoughts:

Gorgeous fruity dram with nuanced complexity, the fascinating part is the immediate mix of dry and fresh fruity notes. Sometimes it really makes me think how did they do it… The flavours have been consistently laid around the rich fruitiness and that makes a very purposeful profile here. This reminds me of the ongoing discussion of blend versus single malt at different levels, some might think blended whiskies represent inferior quality as flavours are scattered all over the places, but this whisky proves the contrary and demonstrated how a blended whisky can possess a big character with exceeding qualities.

☆ [Recommended]

[46.8% • 2015 • Blended Scotch Whisky • Non Chill Filtered • Limited Edition • 8888 Bottles]

-Esmond