Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review: Johnnie Walker Gold Label - An 18 yr old Premium Scotch Blend

Note:  The Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 year age statement has been discontinued by Diageo (owner of the Johnnie Walker brand).  The 18 year age statement has been dropped and now the label of its replacement reads "Gold Label Reserve."  The following review pertains to the 18 year age statement bottling that has been discontinued.  If you find this discontinued bottling, buy it, as the replacement falls far short.  My Gold Label Reserve review can be accessed by clicking here.

Product Line Overview
The Johnnie Walker product line is easy to understand. Certain labels denote the level of quality of the relevant blended whisky. Red Label is the entry level offering, drunk by itself is a pleasant endeavour, and so, very suitable for adding soda or making mixed drinks. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Blue Label, a blend of scotch whiskies up to 40 yrs of age, sourcing single malts of distilleries that are no longer in operation. In between these two extremes are: Black, Green and Gold labels. As you can see, the Gold Label falls just before the zenith of scotch blends, Johnnie Walker Blue Label. So, the question that arises: Is Gold Label that good? And the answer is . . . yes, it is. Very good indeed.
It was introduced into the market place in 1995. Little advertising on TV and in magazines in the US. Advertising is considerable in the Far East where Johnnie Walker enjoys a huge following. China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand are filled with ads of this scotch.
In North America, the price of Gold Label, I think causes consumers to opt for single malt over it. In any case, despite the lack of profile and advertising in North America, it is well worth discovering.

Gold Label Composition
The Gold Label is made up of a combination of grain and single malt whiskies having a minimum age of 18yrs in casks, prior to actual bottling. Remember scotch, unlike wine, does not improve with age once bottled. At the core of this blend are a number of single malts that are purported to be quite scarce. Specifically, Clynelish which is distilled from spring water that supposedly runs through veins of gold. I am frankly a little sceptical, and do not think that water passing by or through veins of gold will actually impart a distinctive flavor. Anyway, the bottom line is tha this blend is made up of high quality and obscure single malts. Diageo (the company that owns Johnnie Walker) is very guarded as to the contents of this blend. In my humble opinon, there are two reasons: first, they want to minimize competition; and secondly, there may be more grain whisky than people would expect, that if divulged might negatively impact sales.

I could nose this scotch for hours. There is so much there and you just know they spent a bloody fortune trying to get the scents just right. I am a guy who is not particularly concerned with interior decor or the color of my socks in relation to my suit, but this scotch, I am fascinated by the scents it gives. Its like sniffing a rose, and coming back over and over. Even my wife sniffed it and was shocked it was scotch. There is a lot going on, specifically, the scent of fresh bread, roses, and other flowers that frankly smell nice, but don't have a clue to identify. If this is a gift, your recipient will be impressed upon nosing this blend.

Suggested Serving
This is not to be drank with anything more than a drop or two of distilled water or a single ice cube. If you consult the Johnnie Walker US website, you will be advised to try the Gold Label by freezing a shot in a glass in your freezer for 24 hours. Dont worry, due to the alcohol content, it doesnt freeze, but it does thicken. A sip of this scotch that has been subjected to your freezer for 24 hrs results is a scotch that upon sipping, in a chilled tumbler, provides a concentrated dram of honey and heather. I tried freezing a shot in a tumbler and then sipping and must say I was impressed. I chased a sip with some milk chocolate and was in awe. It transforms from a scotch to a dessert liqueur almost.

This is a gentle, soft introduction to a sophisticated honeyed dram. The honey is presented libereally on the palate, but mixed in with notes of heather, rich cream, spicy cinnamon, zing of candy cane, faint reverberations of peat and whisps of smoke. A wrapping of flavors that can be truly called complex. There is no burn or roughness here. You know upon your first sip that you are experiencing a high quality blend of spice, honey, smoke and peat in a flavor wrapping like no other.

If you tried it after being in the freezer for 24hrs, the flavors will linger much longer than if served neat at room temperature. Frozen, you will swallow, and minutes later you will still be able to taste the honey, heather, peat and smoke in that unique envelope of single malts and blends. The warming affect of your mouth upon the chilled scotch is truly very pleasing and unique.
Served neat, the flavor remains upon being swallowed, but does not linger as long as when served frozen and in a chilled tumbler. I realize that it is outrageous to serve scotch after having been in a freezer for 24 hours but it does work in this case.

General Impressions
Johnnie Walker Gold Label is to be served on special occasions for people who will appreciate a complex, honeyed, refined and very smooth dram. If you graduate from university and your parents choosing to serve this, they are on the mark. If you are in the bar at 2 am and contemplating taking a leak in the dumpster outside with your college buddies, you have missed the mark by a wide margin.'Smooth' and 'honey' in a complex wrapping of flavor is what I think of when considering this scotch. The only negative comment I have is with respect to the tail end of the tasting or finish. I pick up some heather or mint that is a little off. It annoys me a bit, but I am being very fussy and only a couple of my connosieur friends agree with me on this point.


Jason Debly

P.S. A frequent question I get is what is the difference between Gold Label Reserve that is replacing Gold Label 18 year age statement bottling?

Here is an explanation from Diageo's Nick Morgan:

"The existing Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18-year-old and Johnnie Walker Green Label will begin to be phased out in the U.S. market during the summer of next year (the phase-outs will begin this summer in most other global markets). In their place, Diageo will introduce two new labels that have tested successfully in Asia—Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (selling for around $63 a 750-ml.) and Johnnie Walker Platinum 18-year-old (around $110).

Diageo’s head of whisky outreach Nick Morgan told Shanken News Daily the revamp was meant to spread out the Johnnie Walker portfolio’s pricing in order to better motivate consumers to move up the brand ladder. “As we reviewed the brand offering, we found that the range wasn’t meeting consumer needs and providing the best consumer journey through the range as far as taste profiles and price points,” Morgan said. “Another reason for this change is to try and have, as far as is possible, a consistent range of prices and options for consumers wherever they go in the world—which, to be honest, we haven’t had heretofore.”

The new Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is based on the same Clynelish single malt as Gold Label 18-year-old, but it has a less peaty profile and will sell for around $20 less. Removing the age statement from the Gold offering also enables Diageo greater flexibility in crafting the blend. Platinum 18-year-old, meanwhile, has a more intense, peaty Speyside character. The two new variants will sit between Black Label (around $40) and Blue Label (around $210) in the portfolio. “You can see how the ladder then stretches out,” Morgan said

© Jason Debly, 2009 - 2012. All rights reserved.


  1. Hi, i read on some webpages that due to the gold veins is not recommended to stock this whisky, because it would mess what they called an art-piece. Is that true? is there a time limit to stock this label?
    I'm from Argentina, so pardon me if my english isn't very clear. Thanks

  2. Hi Dario, I am not sure I understand your question.

    If you are asking if Johnnie Walker Gold Label will eventually be unavailable due to the supply of certain single malts (ie. Clynelish) being eventually exhausted, I think the answer is no. So, don't worry that if you do not buy a bottle soon, you will miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy a great blend. Johnnie Walker Gold is not made up of any whiskies of now defunct distillers. If for example you were wondering about a particular bottle of Port Ellen, that would be different because that distillery is now shut down, has been for several years. Once the bottles in storage are gone, that is the end. Not the case where I with Johnnie Walker Gold.

    I hope I have answered your question.

  3. I think what Dario meant was, if he buys a bottle of Gold Label, will it be fine for him to stock it up for some time cause due to the gold veins, it might spoilt the taste. He wanted to know how long he can stock the bottle before the taste eventually turn less flavorful

    Correct me if i'm wrong.

  4. I will ask Diaego, the company that owns this brand and see if we can get an answer from them.

    In the meantime, here are my thoughts.

    (1) Store Bottle Upright - In my opinion, if a bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold (or any other whisky for that matter) is properly stored upright, I think it will be fine for at least 10 years with no negative impact. 10 years would be the bare minimum.

    The contents are not going to go 'bad' due to age. This scotch flavor profile would only be harmed if it were stored on its side because alcohol in contact with the cork of a long period of time will deteriorate the cork and impart bad flavors into the whisky.

    (2) Store in a cool place - I said cool not cold. Whisky should not be stored for a prolonged period of time in very warm temperatures or cold. Cool, a dark basement shelf will do.

    (3) Dark or minimal light storage conditions -Light is not a friend of whisky. Keep it in the cupboard. Not on the dining room by the picture window with the sunshine pouring through day after day.

    (4) Keep it sealed - It is also important to keep the seal to this whisky intact. Do not open it until ready to drink. Once the seal is broken and the cork has been removed even once, air will get in and cause oxidation to occur. The reaction of air with the whisky will eventually (I am talking a couple of years) affect the flavor profile.

    Anyway, will get in touch with you shortly.

  5. I received a response from a Diaego representative via email today in regards to our questions. This is what I received:

    "Dear Mr. Jason Debly,

    Thank you for taking the time to contact Johnnie Walker®. Your feedback is important to us.

    Under normal storage conditions, whisky will maintain its original quality and taste for several years, although over a long period of time its taste may change very slightly. The aging process of whisky occurs in the barrel, before it's blended and bottled. In fact, Johnnie Walker whisky is at its peak flavor when it’s first bottled.

    Once again, thank you for contacting Johnnie Walker.


    Matias W.

    Johnnie Walker Consumer Representative

    Keep walking at please Drink Responsibly"

    Comment: What I found interesting was the statement that the whisky "is at its peak flavor when it's first bottled." However, the whisky "will maintain its original quality and taste for several years, although over a long period of time its taste may change very slightly."

    Learn something new everyday!

  6. First, let me say that I own a Gold Label myself and can't tell if it is corked or not since there is an outer seal as well.
    If this outer seal is not air tight (and if it is truly corked) then air will be getting in before it is opened anyway. Any corked bottle "breathes" ever so slightly in varying amounts depending on the composition of the cork.
    My point is: don't count on the bottle being air tight. Even if the cork is not removed it will still be letting some air in.

  7. It's been my limited experience that the vast majority of scotch whisky (blended and single malt) is rarely corked. This is especially true with respect to scotch owned by Diageo. Quality assurance is paramount. In fact, I have never encountered a "corked" or flawed bottle from any of the various Johnnie Walker product line. That being said, it is certainly possible. But, the bottom line, if the seal is intact, as well as the cork, stored upright in a cool, dark place, you can confidently store it for many years and when you open it, it will be good. That being said, yes there is the possibility of a corked bottle, but the odds are very remote given the above.

  8. We stored a bottle of gold label upright in a wooden cupboard for about 7 years. This is in India - the temperatures were fairly moderate for most of the year, but could go up to 120F in summer. The cupboard was rarely open - maybe once a year. The bottle had a tamper proof plastic seal and metal cap (not cork). When we eventually opened the bottle, the taste & smell had completely changed. It literally had the smell of the cupboard (varnish or wood, not sure). Is this expected? Can you suggest what we might have done wrong? Is it because of the high temperatures or something else?

  9. Hi reader from India! I think the soaring summer temperatures (120F) in summer is the reason for the spoiling of your bottle of scotch. Technically, the seal of the bottle was not air tight. Once air gets in the bottle the scotch will deteriorate.

    The other point I would make is that I do not think you had a genuine bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold. You mention that it had a metal cap, not a cork. Johnnie Walker Gold is bottled with a wooden cork covered by aluminum foil. You may have had a counterfeit bottle which again would not have the level of quality assurance regarding sealing of the bottle that Diaego (owner of Johnnie Walker institutes).

    Given the temperatures in India, I would store good scotch in a cool place or the refrigerator if really desperate.

    Thanks for reading and posting.

    P.S. I hear Teacher's Highland Cream is enormously popular in India. Is this true?

  10. Hi Jason,

    Don't know if you're aware of ralfy's whisky site? He has a comparison of a Red Label from the 60's with a new bottle and the difference (he says) is huge. You can view a video review of it on Youtube or his site.
    Also he's mentioned before that cupboards tend to be terrible for preservering whisky, influencing flavour and smell over the long run, just as described above.
    Hard to imagine but I guess I won't be leaving anything in wooden cupboards for extended periods of time.

    (Great reviews by the way).


  11. I did see Ralfy's review of Johnnie Walker Red from the 60's and today. Interesting. I think the Johnnie Walker Red of today is better than the stuff of the late 70's and 80's though.

  12. Hi Jason,

    I haven't tried red at all, so couldn't comment. Was interesting viewing though.

    Concerning temperature (or in this case serving gold label from the freezer); during the summer I tend to put all my whisky in a glass, cover them and leave them in the fridge for ten minutes or so before drinking (I use ice only in Buffalo trace Bourbon, but even then fish it out after a few minutes). You never read anything about serving temperature, so I use the same rule of thumb as with red wine, aprox 16-18 degrees celsius. I enjoy all malts, especialy the peaty ones slightly chilled.
    Any thoughts?


  13. I do not think there are any hard and fast rules with respect to serving temperature as is the case with respect to red/white wines.

    I have tried Gold label chilled in the freezer and then served. It was very pleasant at the time but ultimately I think a little gimmick to create 'buzz.'

    When I first started drinking scotch, I added two ice cubes always. Gradually, I got away from that and now rarely add ice.

    As for Bufallo Trace, try taking very little sips and drink water in between sips. You might surprise yourself.

    Chilled peaty scotch in the summer could be very refreshing. I think it is all up to you as your taste experience is what counts!

  14. Going back to the 60's my father in law from the Isle of Islay was rewarded with a 200 year old whisky and certificate from the brewery.

    It was passed on to my son who hasn't opened it, So i was thinking maybe the taste is changing so much it will not be a question of taste any longer but of collecting!

  15. what is the diff. betn. Gold Label 18 yrs. old & Gold Label Reserve ?

  16. I don't believe Johnnie Walker Gold Label is ever labelled as "reserve" and if you see it on a Johnnie Walker bottle, it is probably a forgery. Sometimes in Hong Kong and the Far East there are counterfeit Johnnie Walker bottles.

    In general, if you read "Gold Label Reserve" on a bottle, it does not have a particular or legal meaning. Any distillery can make label a certain bottling as 'reserve' without specifying or aging for a specific period of time. One distillery may label their 12yr old whisky at 12yrs while another at 10 yrs. Bottom line: there are no hard and fast rules.

  17. Aloha Jason,

    I am picking up my first bottle of johnny gold. I decided to do a little research before I made my purchase. Thanks for answering a few questions that I had. Cool web-site bra

  18. Jason,
    I picked up a bottle of JW Gold Label Reserve from a Duty Free shop in India. It looks like a genuine JW brand. Also I dont think a Duty Free store would sell duplicate brands..Can u please tell me what is the difference between JW Gold Label 18 yrs and JW Gold Label Reserve?

  19. I searched on Google, images of "Gold Label Reserve" and saw bottles with that label. I am in Canada and there is no such label mentioning "reserve." Neither is there in the US.

    The Google image I saw was of a bottle for sale in Australia. I am wondering if "Gold Label Reserve" is simply a labeling used in certain markets like India and Australia. I suspect this is the case, but I will email Diageo directly and see if they can shed any light on the matter. As you know, they are a multinational company with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Accordingly, it is quite possible that my query sent to Diageo in Canada or the US would be responded by an employee who is not aware of what the company is doing in the Far East or Asia.

    Emailing Diageo is rather hit and miss. Sometimes, they respond promptly, other times they ignore me.

    I'll post an update if I hear anything back.

  20. Well, I never heard back from Diageo. I find it is hit or miss whether or not they respond to my questions.

    In any case, I did some searching on the web and stumbled upon a whisky blog devoted to Johnnie Walker Scotch. Sure enough one of the web pages had pictures of Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve. I asked the blogger where he got the bottle and he said it was from Singapore and developed for that market only.

    That's all I know.

  21. thanks jason for the great feedback!

    i was skeptical to buy JW Gold because i was of the impression that (overall) green label is better. but after reading your reviews, i am very excited now to buy my first bottle of gold label. thanks again!

    btw, if you are in a store and made to choose between gold and green, which would you prefer?

    happy new year everyone!

    brian from the philippines

  22. If I am in a store and have to make a choice between Green and Gold labels, I will generally choose Green 9 out of ten times. I just prefer it.

    When you decide to venture into single malts, try Cragganmore 12 years which is a core malt making up the Green Label.


  23. How to contact the Johnny walker? I tasted the new gold reserve in Indonesia. It tasted so bad and so bitter. I'm a gold lover for more than 10 years. Should I change to another brand? I love gold so much.

  24. If your Gold Label is no longer available, try Clynelish 14yrs. Why? The taste is similar and that should come as no surprise due to the fact that Clynelish is a core single malt making up the Gold Label.

    As for this 'new' gold reserve, Diageo, never responded to my email inquiring as to the presence of this new brand.

  25. I believe that the Gold Label Reserve is limited to the Asian market. This article is from a Malaysian newspaper:

  26. As I mentioned previously, I emailed Diageo about this issue, but never got a response. Diageo are not the most prompt with responses to my queries. Other drinks companies are much more approachageble.

    The only images I see of "Gold Label Reserve" is in the far east and it was a fellow from Hong Kong who inquired about this. Cheers!

  27. I should add that maybe Diageo didn't respond to my email because they do not want to draw attention to the fact that Johnnie Walker Gold in the far east is not necessarily 18 year old blend. That bottling format is reserved for the rest of thw world.


  28. Hi I have a green label with a cork and I have stored it side ways. It been about 6 months I have opened it. Will the taste change?

  29. Ankit, I think storing scotch on its side is never a good thing and stronly suspect that the flavor may have been affected. Of course you will know once you sip it and compare it with a glass at your local bar.

  30. Thanks for your reply. I am planning to order a bottle of Macallan Select Oak. What r ur views about it.

  31. I have not had the Macallan Select Oak, however I suspect it is quite sherried. It is very popular. You will likely enjoy it.

  32. in an old whisky mag forum post i read some called walker mediocre. and went on to say gold freezing idea is just a gimmick to subdue the harsh alcohol. i have no idea what to believe.

  33. Anonymous, I think you have to try it for yourself. Don't rely on my judgment or the Whisky Mag site (which tends to be quite snobby). Give it a go in the freezer!

  34. Thanks for your expertise here. I am a big fan of Johnny Blue but the $200 price tag leaves me at only purchasing once a year. Usually I go with Johnny Black. Recently I told my girl that I saw a Double Black and wondered about it. Well when she went to purchase they were sold out but they talked her into the Gold. I will be trying the Gold tonight. Just curious as to your thoughts on Gold versus Green versus Black versus Double Black and of course blue... Thanks, The BULL

  35. Hi Bull,

    Of the entire line, my favorite is the Green Label. Yup, you read it right. I prefer it to Blue or Gold.

    That being said, Gold is very, very good. The nose on it is one of the finest, if not the finest in all of scotch whisky. I am serious. I think you will really enjoy it and realize that in value for money terms, it beats Johnnie Blue.

    Double Black can be thought of Johnnie Walker Black on steroids. It's a lot more smokey. Good stuff though.


  36. Hi,

    i just come Back from Vietnam !
    There i bought a few Bottles of Johnnie Walker.

    I wondered too about the Gold Label 18yo and the Gold Label Reserve without Age.

    The people said, that the Gold Label is much etter than the Gold Label Reserve.

    After a few hours of google i found out, that the Gold Label Reserve is for Asia market, to make more people drink whisky.
    Ist is between 12 and 15 yo and should be between Black Label and Green Label.
    The normal Gold Label will soon not more saled in Asia and for that comes the Platinum Label 18yo.

    So it is, just for Info.

    I bought from there a bottle Gold Label, Platinum Label (cause never heard of it) and found a rare bottle of Green Label 180 Cask !

    We will see when i find the time to taste it all.

    Someone tasted Green Label 180 Cask or Platinum Label ?

  37. Thank Stunt, for taking the time to post an up date on this product line. As I mentioned before, my email to Diageo (owners of Johnnie Walker products) went ignored by them.

    I never heard of the Platinum label or Green Label 180 Cask. I think Asia gets different products than the west. The Green Label 180 sounds very interesting.

  38. Hello Jason,

    wow.. very early in Canada :D

    In Germany there are no Info's about the Platinum Label too.
    But I guess it will be the same as the Gold Label here. But I will try this out, I bought both.

    And I even never heard of the green Label 180 Cask. But sounds good to me, that the master Blender choose 180 casks for these edition. So it comes that there are no more on sale because 180 cask are not that much I think.
    And I could not find a release date on Google.

    So lucky me, that I found one.
    It would be a good bottle for you, I saw here that the green Label is your famous.

    I went yesterday to the supermarket and bought me a normal bottle green Label, so I will see, what is the different.

    Here an Image from my treasuries:

    But you find better Images of Platinum Label on Google. Own some Bottle !

    I will let you know when I tasted the stuff.
    Normally I drink single malt but the Johnnie Stuff was so cheep in Vietnam *g*

  39. I want to hear what you think of the standard Green Label. Please post your impressions here.

    I checked out your photos of the Gold Label, and Platinum. Interesting.

    I also wish I could go to Vietnam and enjoy some awesome food and hospitality!

  40. Oh the normal Green Label I like very much.

    I like the nose. Its Fruity, Spicy you can say almost perfect, it got all a whisky should have. Even a bit salt I guess

    The Taste too, some spice, here ant there some smoke, but also fruits amt some sweet toffee like.

    (Sorry for bad English, but I tried my best to describe it :D)

    I enjoy it ! The green Label is a well balanced blend and with a wide range of taste and smell !
    (I will let you know about 180 Cask Green Label when I opened it :P)

    Normally I have always a opened bottle at home. Now it was empty, so I needed another one for checking the difference.

    When I started drinking Whisky I tried here and there something and for a long time I liked the Green Label most. Than I invented the world of single malts and yeah here I am now :)

    After drinking much Single malts I like Smokey and "strong" things (like Talisker, Lagavulin, Ardberg, Laphroaig and so on... ) So I find the taste of Black Label very good now. At the beginning I did not like it. And the double black is awesome taste. Good with coke. I like it very much to get fast drunk :D

    And Vietnam, yeah, its awesome. Good Land, good people. Wonderful food. I could eat there the hole day everywhere on the street sales. They do the best food. Who goes there in a restaurant is a fool ! :D
    But the problem is, you find as good as noone who can speak english in this land :D
    But i had no problems to make a communication with tham.
    Stayed there 4 weeks, traveld from Sapa (north) to Mekong Delta (south).

  41. Yes, the food vendors on the streets of Vietnam have the best food I hear. Of course, it helps to have someone who knows the place to guide you.

    As for your developing whisky appreciation. I think your experience is typical of most of us. At first, we like the soft, smooth, sweet whiskies, and over time we progress to the smokier, more challenging ones.


  42. I turn 25 next month and to celebrate this small milestone I am looking to purchase a flashy and expensive malt to enjoy with friends. Would you recommend this one?
    Other malts that I'm considering that I'm sure will make a statement and my guests will enjoy:
    -Highland Park 18
    -Ardbeg Alligator
    -Octomore/2 140

    At this point I'm caught between these. I am only looking to buy 1 or 2...

  43. Hi! I think you and your friends would be well served by Johnnie Walker Gold Label.

    If you have never had single malts before or are more into high end blends, I would stick with Johnni Walker 18. It's got brand name recognition your friends will enjoy, its flashy, and most importantly, it's good!

    You want a drink your friends who are probably not regular scotch drinkers can enjoy. The other single malts you mentioned dont have the easy drinking appeal of Johnnie Walker Gold.

    Cheers and Happy Birthday!

  44. Thanks Jason! You make some great points. I have always considered the JW brand as the sexiest scotch and most people are not regular scotch drinkers. The other scotches I have listed would over power their undeveloped senses and they won't fully appreciate it as much as someone like you and I ;)


  45. Hi Jason
    Great blog! I enjoy it enormously!
    I also enjoy JW Green (mostly) and have tried the Gold and also wondered about the difference between the Gold and Gold Reserve, so I took a leaf out of your book and contacted my local Diageo (Australia) and to my surprise this is what they responded:

    "Thank you for your email about our Johnnie Walker Gold products.

    Gold Reserve is a different liquid (albeit similar taste profile characteristics), and is ‘de-aged’ as it does contain some younger more vibrant whiskies which are under 18 years of age. Gold Label 18 is the Centenary Blend from the House of Walker, originally launched in 1995 based on blending notes penned by Alexander Walker in 1920.

    Gold Reserve is a new blend that showcases some of Master Blender’s favourite Whiskies from his private reserve. As a result Gold 18 used to retail for $180, and you’ll find Gold Reserve for $110-120 (Aus $$)

    Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve offers a deeply satisfying multilayered indulgent taste experience. Possessing a smooth and opulent taste, it boasts of added layers of flavour comprising of honeyed fruit and wood that lead to a deeper, more luxurious finish with hints of sweet smoke.

    Johnnie Walker Gold 18 Year Old has now been discontinued in favour of Gold Label Reserve."

    There is a fair bit of marketing in the reply above but what I took away from it is to savour the two bottles of JW Gold 18 year old I have because it is going to be as scarce as hen's teeth and become very expensive on the collectable market!

    Keep the reviews coming Jason. They are good and honest and I will be tuning in!

    Best -- Michael (Sydney, Australia)

  46. Hi,
    I only stumbled upon your blog recently when googling a review for johnnie walker gold label reserve.

    I was wondering if I could throw down a gauntlet for grandmother has always had an impressive liquor cabinet and one bottle always struck my cousin and I as being pretty fancy when exploring at kids. As 10 years old we made her promise it to us when we turned 21. I still have not drunk a single drop and am waiting to do so.

    It is a Johnnie Walker Blue label that she believes she brought back from Scotland a very long time ago, do you think if I gave you a picture of the box and the bottle that you would be able to date it???


    1. Hi Adrian!

      I can tell something about the age of the bottle without seeing a photograph.

      Johnnie Walker Blue Label was launched in 1991 or 1992. Accordingly, the oldest it would be is 20yrs.

      If you want to know the actual age, when it was bottled and so forth, I think if you emailed Diageo (the company that owns the Johnnie Walker Brand) they could tell with certainty.

  47. Jason, One of our group members stumbled on a small cache of the 18y ($64) at a Ventura liquor store. He picked one up for the group and we enjoyed it. It's a very nice dram, though at the same time rather a touch lacking in either intensity or complexity for the money, to my taste. If the new NAS version is something even less interesting, woe be the customer of Diageo liquors - again. JK

    1. The new NAS is very flat and boring. Avoid it, unless proffered for free and then have a go. I am sure you will find it woefully inadequate.

  48. Jason - great review series! Thank you - it's like a trip down memory lane for me....

    A (probably silly) digression based on a comment you made in this review about how "scotch, unlike wine, does not improve with age once bottled" - what is the oldest scotch currently available, and is the drink really that superior to good younger scotches? I ask because the ABC-TV show CASTLE (yeah, the one with The Guy From FIREFLY as a horny mystery writer smitten with an uptight but hot woman murder cop!) has a recurring bit about "hundred year old scotch" - which according to the show, had been hidden bottled in a secret basement storeroom since Prohibition! Subtracting a century from when the episode that introduced the "hundred year old scotch" was produced, that means the scotch was probably made about 1911, would make it at most 20-year old scotch stored in bottles for nearly seventy years. The bottles are red-tinted glass, but have that distinct Johnny Walker look to them (which hasn't changed since before Prohibition, or so a Google search shows me!).

    My question is, would a bottle of scotch that's been bottled since Prohibition actually be such a good drink as CASTLE posits it is? It's often used on the show as the ne plus ultra drink for special occasions, with title character Richard Castle, supposedly a scotch aficionado as well as a wealthy bestselling writer, going on at length about its quality. Is there something to that, or is it just Some Television Writer assuming "old equals excellent and expensive"...?

  49. I think you cite a prime example of a television writer incorrectly assuming that older means better. Older certainly does mean more expensive but not better.

    For me, older means different. Sometimes better than younger malts but generally different, interesting, novel, but not usually worth the money. A good example is Highland Park 25. It is good, but rather woody and maybe a bit too strong. I prefer the 15 and the 18 in terms of all round quality.

    Another example is Glenfiddich 15. I would reach for that any day over the 18 or 21.

    For me, I find my favorite malts reach their zenith frequently between 14 and 18yrs. Rarely do malts benefit for aging passed 18 years.

    Thanks for commenting and welcome to the blog.

  50. I think that gold labl is a waste of my money.

  51. Costco have (had?) been selling the Gold 18yrs version in 1.75l bottling for USD 99 each alongside the 750ml bottlings. The latter is about USD 65 as usual. The 1.75l (and the 750ml for that matter) are disappearing quite fast, so you might want to check your local Costco if you are planning to grab a few before Summer is over and the Gold 18 yrs is permanently gone (or is it repackaged into Platinum 18 that's appearing in stores now?).

    I'm saying this because I've hoarded enough :)

  52. I bought the gold reserve 1.75 for 89 Euro. Its a fair pric for a nice blended Whisky!

  53. Description: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Scotch
    Size: 750 ML
    Price: $58.99 -- Closeout Price
    @Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board ,
    Pennsylvania, USA

  54. I wrote you years ago thanking you for your recommendation on the Centenary blend--through the black market in a city in Korea, I've been able to pick up several 750ml bottles for about $75 Canadian each, and they are legit. Have yet to try the "gold" and "spice" road duty-free "Explorer's Blend" variety but will let you know how they turn out.

    1. I have been wondering about the Spice Road and Explorer blend line that is only available at duty free. Please let me and the readers know your impressions. Thanks!

  55. I have been a Johnnie Walker drinker since the 70's. JW Black Label continued to be my scotch of choice for everyday. But about 4 years ago I bought a bottle of JW Green Label just to try. I found it smooter than the Black and a little sweeter taste. About 2 years ago I tried JW Gold Label at a friends bar. I found it smoother and even better balanced than the Green. I save the Green for special occassions and the Gold for very special occasions. I am still waiting to try the Blue Label, and the new Double Black, Gold Reserve, and Platinum.

    By the way, great web site. Thanks, Bob J.

    1. Hello Bob,

      I am not a fan of the newly launched Gold Label Reserve as I find it sweet and no complexity in spite of the elevated price. The old Gold Label with the 18yr age statement was far better.

      Platinum is a nice drop, but again the price is too high. But, if one is a true Johnnie Walker Fan, they can ignore value for money considerations. As for Blue, every JW fan must try it. Get a bottle. You do not want to lay on your death bed thinking about the bottle that got away!

      Thanks for commenting!

  56. Jason, I went out early this morning to track a bottle of JW Gold 18. I found one at $91 but for some reason did not buy it. I then went to a little liquor store a rarely visit and they had a lone bottle of JW Green. I spoke with the clerk about the new JW labels and also Blue. He said that their distributor discounts the Blue in December. Now I am sitting here reading your other blogs and enjoying a glass of JW Green. I drink it over ice with a splash of water.

    Thanks again, Bob J

  57. Is it just my imagination or does Gold Label Reserve not taste as good as the previous 18 year old ? It is still good though.

    1. Your imagination is not playing tricks on you. Gold Label Reserve is not nearly as good as the 18yr old it replaced.

  58. Green should be re introduced for sure. It made for a nice change from the usual JW. Black is nice. Double black is nasty in my opinion. Gold Reserve is no where near as nice compared to Gold 18. Platimum is very nice. But the Dunhill edition is just a gimmick.. Blue is nice but does not warrant the price tag as it is not that special. One just thinks that it is due to the price. The Blue cask edition I cannot comment on as I have not opened it yet.. lol .. anyway.. enjoy :)

  59. Jason,

    I have recently seen the Gold 18 and Green Labels for sale again here in New Jersey...Any word on whether they are be re-released for one reason or another or these are more likely to be left over stock in the store?


    1. Green Label has reappeared in Canada too, so I dont know what the deal is. I emailed Diageo a while ago, but they do not respond.

      Not sure what is going on. Will ask someone I know in the industry and maybe post about it.

  60. Just bought 2 bottles of Gold Label 18 yo at Tesco here in the UK at £65 a bottle. No Green Label to be seen.


  61. With regards to earlier (June 19, 2010) comments about deterioration of whisky in cupboards in India- I had the same experience with Red Label in Nepal where it picked up the flavour of the naphthalene mothballs within one month, to the point where it was undrinkable. I've had the same whisky from a cement cupboard in India where the termites had stripped the labels off over time, and the flavour was unimpaired.My lesson- don't store whisky in a space with mothballs.

  62. J.W Centenary Blend is available on Amazon uk for £45.

    In and out of stock but now picked up 3 bottles from Drink Superstore.

  63. Jason - I echo the thanks of others. I greatly appreciate what you do with this blog. It has helped me immensely in recent months.

    I've been a near decade-long bourbon whiskey drinker, & have found myself ready for a steady change. Just prior to my brother going full-on into micro-brew beer as his drink of choice last summer, he & my wife collaborated to introduce me to scotch whiskey. It has been a welcomed change I have fully embraced. I have grown fond of it - and have slowly transitioned to it being my drink of choice ahead of even my two favorite bourbons in this season of life.

    I recently came across a bottle of the JW 18 year at a local grocer, & upon reading your review - my first stop in all scotch considerations, promptly bought the bottle. I love it & lament it's discontinuation. I further followed your advice in regards to chilling it for 24 hours in the freezer, & enjoyed my experience with it. If I see another bottle - I'm going to grab it.

    Given its having been discontinued - is there a close approximation & experience to this, you recommend?

    Further - I have tried the chilling technique on a few others scotches, & it's enjoyable - but not all quite as much. I assume not all scotch is meant to be drank after such a treatment (like Macallan 12?). What is your beef back on this, if you don't mind? I ordinarily use whiskey stones for a slight chill.

    Thanks again for your blog. It makes decision making for a relative newcomer to this gentler side of the whiskey spectrum a much more informed place as I discern what I love.

    1. Johnnie Walker Gold 18 (the old version) is a honeyed dram with good complexity and shares flavors that you will find in Glenmorangie 12 yrs Nectar D'OR, Cragganmore 12 yrs and Glenfiddich 15yrs Solera. Dalwhinnie 15 is similar too but has some interesting nuances not found in the others.

      As for putting a dram in the freezer, Diageo recommends it for the old Gold Label. It works for it, but not sure it works for others. I would not do it with Macallan. Could try it with a cheap blend like Islay Mist 7yrs.

      This blog is geared to the ordinary guy who just wants a good whisky. I have never been to Scotland to do those fancy distillery tours and probably will never get there because they are too expensive for my budget. So, I do what I can do and that is pick up a bottle, evaluate it and post my thoughts.

      Thanks for chiming in and welcome to the world of Scotch!