Category Archives: Taste of the…

Johnnie Walker Green

Johnnie Walker Green Label Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
43% ABV/86 Proof
$55
Available Worldwide

What the Distillery Says:
Johnnie Walker Green Label is a rich blend using only malts drawn from the four corners of Scotland – the naturally vibrant flavors provide unparalleled depth, substance and intensity. Each of the malts is specially selected by the Master Blender to create the perfect balance in the whisky.

Each malt whisky is matured for a minimum of 15 years to deliver rich, full layers of flavor. Coupled with the blending mastery of Johnnie Walker, it ensures the characteristic smoothness and distinctive flavor of Green Label.

Four signature malts provide the key taste influences for this 15-year-old whisky. Talisker introduces power and depth of character, Caol Ila contributes mystery and intensity and, at its heart, Cragganmore provides a sweet maltiness, while Linkwood adds a final touch of finesse.

Blending exclusively with malts produces a rich, powerful whisky, with each one giving its own intense flavor and aromas to create a perfect combination.

With its rich gold amber appearance, this medium-full malt summons up a multiplicity of complex natural aromas. It starts on the seashore and drifts inland over moist moss and through evergreen forest. Then come the exotic notes of orange peel, stewed peaches, cooked black fruits and sour cherry.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Sweet fruit wood smoked meats and fresh grass.
Palate: Very sweet initially. Mid palate is oak, vegetal matter, and smoke. Not Islay smoke, much lighter than that.
Finish: Hot and oaky on the finish. No burn but rather spicy.
Comments: This is a very tasty dram. I’m always intrigued with quality vatted/blended malts. Maybe because they are a relative rarity in the world of scotch. Taking the grain whisky out gives a more robust flavor with greater depth. It gives you just as much as Johnnie Blue for a fraction of the price!
Rating: Stands Out

What Matt Says:
Nose: Sweet oranges, sour cherries, lavender, and confectioner’s sugar
Palate: Caramel and spice, plumbs, more lavender, resinous smoke (not peaty but sticky), brine
Finish: A little hot with notes of charred oak, brine and more of that lavender
Comments: This and the Gold Label are my favorites in the Johnnie Walker line.  I’m with Richard in that I like to see these “Pure Malt” blends.  You definitely get a more robust and complex offering when these are done well.  If you are going for easy drinking, go for the Gold Label.  If you want great complexity and a more robust taste profile, go with this one.
Rating:  Stands Out

Overall Rating:  Stands Out

Ancient Age

Ancient Age Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
40% ABV/ 80 Proof
$8
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
You’ve known us a long time, and you could always count on us for quality. But even more than that, you’ve known us to make great bourbon. Well, we just got better. We’ve begun using a chill filtration system for our bourbon, which improves our color, flavor, and all around taste experience.

We’ve always taken great pride in what we put in our bottles. Now even more so.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Orange blossoms, cloves, and hints of baked cherries.
Palate: Orange bitters developing to orange zest. There’s a lot more citrus than I expected. There’s just a hint of sweetness poking around the corners.
Finish: The finish is smooth yet bitter.
Comments: The first time I became aware of Ancient Age was years ago through Stephen King’s novella Apt Pupil. Kurt Dussander, the Nazi war criminal in hiding drank bottle after bottle of Ancient Age. He described it as “cheap and good.” It’s definitely cheap. The good is subjective. I find this to be an average bourbon but it is the “orangiest” bourbon I’ve ever tried. Maybe something for the mixologists to take note of.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Tart plums, dry dusty wood, burnt sugar and vanilla.  Water brings out some tart apple (almost like a Wine Sap)
Palate: Sharp and alcoholic on the sides of the tongue.  Walnut husks, cinnamon bubble gum (Big Red to be exact), an almost berry sweetness and rock candy.
Finish: The burn lingers and warms the throat.  The finish is dominated by dusty walnut husks with a sweet/sour combination that hovers just above the tongue
Comments: A smoker’s whiskey.  The finish slowly fades to a taste that is something very similar to cigarette ash.  It’s cheap.  I’ll give it that.  Perhaps one of the better whiskeys at this price point.  It certainly stands out against drams like Ten High and Rebel Yell.  If I ever become a hobo, riding the rails and hustling for my next meal, this will probably be my whiskey of choice.  Until then, I’ll stick to my Buffalo Trace and Four Roses Yellow Label for affordable bourbon.
Rating:  Probably Pass

Overall Rating:  Average

Johnnie Walker Gold

Johnnie Walker Gold Label, The Centenary Blend
40% ABV/80 Proof
$65
Available Worldwide

What the Distillery Says:
Johnnie Walker Gold Label was blended to celebrate the first 100 years of the House of Walker in 1920. A well-kept secret, it’s only been available outside the company since the 1990s. It has a distinctly smooth, sweet and luxurious character, with a stylish elegance and refined quality.

Gold Label is crafted using whiskies such as Clynelish for a honeyed flavor and creamy texture yet still retaining the signature Johnnie Walker smokiness.

With its rich gold color and old-gold glints, it reveals a full, round, deep nose. There are notes of soft raisins and toffee, fresh malt and light cream – Gold Label is as enticing as it is sensuous.

Its palate is rich and broad with full malt flavors and honeyed spices with almonds and marzipan, which leads to a distinctive creaminess.

Cardhu provides strong yet smooth malt and oak flavors. Extra-mature grain whiskies deliver some of the lingering sweetness, while Clynelish from the northern Highlands is responsible for the unusual aromatic creaminess. The finish is multidimensional and satisfyingly long.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Fresh woodchips added to a fire.
Palate: Slightly sweet with hints of shortbread cookies and mild oak. No water with this one.
Finish: Short and crisp. This is a whisky that gets the heck out of Dodge.
Comments: Gold Label is actually recommended by Diageo to be served out of the freezer. I guess given the muted flavor the chill doesn’t have much to hide. I know this is Matt’s favorite of the Johnnie Walker blends but I’ve never really taken to it. It’s very mild and easily approachable but there’s nothing there to make me specifically want a glass of Johnnie Gold. I do think that overall it stands out because it’s not offensive and shows a great balance similar to Dewar’s Signature. On a side note, I find Gold Label to be a great palate cleanser to prep me for tasting other whiskies.
Rating: Stands Out

What Matt Says:
Nose: caramel, smoke, orchard fruit, light zesty citrus
Palate: Heavier sherry influence than younger Johnnies; dark berries, smokey sweetness
Finish: Lingering traces of peat smoke and brine
Comments: Wow!  Richard and I could not disagree more.  Perhaps its because the sample I sent over was the last drops of a bottle that was open for a while.  I think this is the best JW has to offer.  It’s complex and bold, but smooth.
Rating:  Must Try

Overall Rating:  Stands Out

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
45.2% ABV/90.4 Proof
$25 to $30
Widely Available

What the distillery says:
It all comes down to a small team guided by one man – our Master Distiller. Applying years of experience and knowledge, he selects only barrels whose whiskey shows superior maturation qualities. These barrels are set aside, then moved to the 100-year-old stone warehouses at The Woodford Reserve Distillery to finish their maturation.

The heat of summer and the cold of the Kentucky winter are key when you want a fine whiskey to mature properly. That’s why our barrels see every season. When the whiskey in these special barrels reaches its peak, it becomes Woodford Reserve

What Richard Says:
Nose: Buttery with hints of oak. A good bit of citrusy sweetness and the slightest hint of nuttiness. Water mutes the butter and wood and then smacks you in the face with citrus.
Palate: Very sweet initially. As you move it around the mouth the sweetness takes a back seat to ripe fruit and mild oakiness.
Finish: The finish is actually sweet and mildly oaky but very hot. This one leaves the lips and back of the throat tingling. A little waters dowses the fire and give you a finish that plays well between sweetness and wood with flowery under notes.
Comments: I’m always a little conflicted on single whiskey distillers. I don’t mean to insinuate that more expressions means better product but I respect the continuing strive for innovation and self improvement. The recent special releases have been varied in quality but always respected for the willingness to think outside the norm. I fear however, that they are overshadowing the standard expression a little. It is really a stand out bourbon at a reasonable price point. I’m glad I got reaquainted. Keep up the good work guys!
Rating: Stands Out.

What Matt Says:

Matt has not had a chance to review this whiskey.

Seagram’s 7

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while going back to our Gateway Series of reviews. I was waiting to see if Matt would try this one too but he’s on vacation so I’m going to publish it anyway.

In all seriousness, it was a post on Chuck Cowdery’s Blog about American Blended Whiskey that reminded of this old review so here it goes…

Seagram’s 7 Crown American Whiskey
40% ABV/80 Proof
$10 to $15
Available Everywhere

What the Distillery Says:
I actually couldn’t find anything.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Honey and ripe fruit. Oranges and nuts. Not an altogether unpleasant nose.
Palate: Candied rubber? Very antiseptic and spicy. Not something to drink neat.
Finish: Very hot and rough finish. Not smooth in the least.
Comments: Okay, Seagram’s isn’t exactly suggesting this be drunk straight like a fine bourbon. It’s a cheap mixer and tastes as such. It’s a very odd bastard child of something bourbon-like and something Canadian.
Rating: I’ll Pass (so bad that I’m adding another rating to our system)

What Matt Says:

Matt has not had a chance to review this whiskey yet.