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Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label  91.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra
April 6, 2022

Johnnie Walker is one of the most iconic whisky brands in the world. With its unique square bottle, and the labels tilted off-center, the company has created a strong brand image, and its spirit is considered by many to be the quintessential Scottish whisky.

Late in 2020, I began a series of reviews reviews which was to encompass the entire family of Johnnie Walker blended whiskies. This review of the Blue Label (the brand which sits on the top rung of the Johnnie Walker ladder) completes this series.

 

If you are interested in the entire line-up my reviews for each of the others can be found here:

Reading through the reviews, you will find that I saw a general improvement in each whisky as I climbed the rungs of the ladder, and my hope is that Johnnie Walker Blue Label will continue that upward trend.

It is interesting to note that Johnnie Walker does not make an age claim for this whisky although it is generally believed that the Blue Label represents an older overall blend than the Johnnie Walker 18 Year Old. Nor does Johnnie Walker give any indication as to which distilleries have contributed their whikies to the overall blend. It is hinted that the existing distilleries of Royal Lochnagar, Clynelish, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie and Cameronbridge all contribute to the character of Johnnie Walker Blue; however I may be reading more into the information provided than I am supposed to be so we should take that bit of information with a grain of salt.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label is bottled at 40 % abv..

Note: I had three different bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label available to me to taste, a small 50 ml bottle, a 200ml bottle shown with a cocktail at the end of the review, and the 750 ml bottle shown in the main body of the review. My tasting notes were drawn from the 50 ml and 200 ml sample bottles which represent more recent bottlings than the 750 ml bottle.

In The Bottle 5/5

Johnnie Walker Blue Label arrives in the typical square bottle shape, designed in 1920 by Alexander Walker. The shape is distinctive to the brand, and is said to be an ergonomic design, allowing more bottles to be packed into a square area with less chance of breakage. A key aspect the bottle presentation is the slanted label which is tilted about 24 degrees off-center. The angled label was designed to catch the attention of shoppers when the bottle sat on the shelf next to the other whisky bottles.

As well, every bottle of Johnnie Walker Scotch features the Striding Man logo which artist/cartoonist, Tom Browne created on the back of a menu card while at lunch with the Walker Brothers in 1908. The logo portrays a man walking forward, which has come to symbolize forward thinking and the pursuit for excellence for the brand. (Diageo, the owners of the Johnnie Walker Brand have also created “The Striding Man Society” which is a members club for Johnnie Walker drinkers.)

Upping the ante with the Blue Label, Johnnie Walker understands that part of the attraction of the Blue label is the ability to showcase the whisky to colleagues and friends. With that aim they have decided to sell the premium whisky in an attractive display box (not shown) and they have added a blue tint to the glass bottle which houses the whisky. I believe this is an elegant presentation which impresses, but does not go over the top.

In the Glass 9/10

Colour: Darker than Amber

Legs: Thickened legs which amble slowly down the inside of the glass

Nose: Rich toffee melded with leathery oak and pencil shavings, vanilla, a little swampy peat and charcoal smoke. We also encounter raisins and dates sweetened with a touch of honey and soft stone fruit (peaches and pears). The peat seems to build up and then fade just a little revealing hints of chocolate and coffee.

I like nosing the glass; but I can’t help but think this is just a tiny step down from the previously reviewed 18 year old Johnny Walker Whisky. The peat, rather than seamlessly blending in, seems to cover over some of the lighter nuances of the whisky, and this has led to a small twinge of disappointment.

In the Glass 54.5/60

The dram brings melded flavours of oak, toffee, and vanilla which are combined with a mild wood smoke and a touch of maltiness. A second sip brings a light honey-like sweetness combined with fruity flavours of orange peel and raisin.  As I discovered on the nose, I notice a welling up of peat and just a touch of a bittersweet chocolate impression. I should note that bits of baking spice appear as well in the form of allspice and nutmeg. The whisky is smooth; but I keep hopping for more. It’s almost as if the dram has been blended together so thoroughly that some of the character has been eroded as well.

I decided next to add an ice cube and found the dram lost more than it gained as a light bitterness develops at the expense of the mild honey sweetness which was holding the oak toffee and mild peat together.

In The Throat  14/15

The whisky is somewhat thickened although and I would describe it as medium bodied. The finish is smooth with a lingering quality which hints at both the age of some of the whiskies in the blend as well as the presence of malt whisky. As we swallow we taste wood smoke and raisins which a slowly replaced by bits of leathery oak and a malty sweetness. Some herbal peat remains in the background.

The Afterburn 9/10

A vague sense of dissatisfaction is present as I wrap up my review. Although Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a great dram with a score in the 90’s, I was expecting more. Part of me believes that perhaps I wasn’t as patient as I needed to be during my tasting sessions; but a larger part of me knows that I handled the tasting sessions exactly as I should have and sometimes expectations are higher than the realizations.

As indicated, Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a great dram, but other than for reasons of impressing your friends and colleagues with a display of the Blue Label on your whisky shelf, Johnnie Walker 18 is a better way to spend your money.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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Suggested Serving

Today the Old Fashioned Cocktail has become the standard-bearer of mixolgy, and it is widely regarded as the first truly Classic Cocktail. It is also a cocktail which is elevated by the use of great ingredients such as a whisky like Johnnie Walker Blue Label. To be clear, my normal inclination would be to serve the dram neat, but as I did enjoy a few Whisky Old Fashioned Cocktails as well I feel the suggestion is not out of place.

Whisky Old Fashioned

1 1/2 oz Johnnie Walker Blue Label
1/2 tsp Sugar syrup
1 dash Dry Orange Curacao
1 dash bitters (Angostura Orange Bitters)
3 large Ice Cubes
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the first four ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 

 

 
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