Note: This is an update of my previous, more detailed review. For the tasting note of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, click here.
Well, I am sipping some Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The bottle came from my wife, as a gift for Father’s Day, and I just got around to opening it a month or so ago.
I like this less and less, the more I drink it. It’s not bad, but gee, is it ever overrated or what? On the plus side, it is smooth, a bonus for hack amateur whisky critics like myself. It seems that only really strong, throat burning whiskies, at cask strength (read over 80 proof) attract the praise of whisky critics these days. If a whisky, scotch or bourbon is a mere 80 proof, it is somehow, automatically lacking in some way. Gimme a break! I hate dogmatism in politics, economics and religion and also in scotch appreciation.
I recognized a similar phenomenon in the world of wine criticsm a few years ago. Robert Parker, the esteemed wine critic, heaped praise on wines that were bold, robust and generally dominated by oak on the palate. So, powerful was he that sales of delicate, non-oakey (not a word, but I just invented it this very moment) languished while Napa Valley oak bombs like Silver Oak flourished. Delicate and complex French Pinot Noir (ie. Louis Jadot) sales suffered because ol’ Robbie Parker scored them lower due to a lack of oak and robust flavor profile.
Similarly, the scotch whisky critics like Jim Murray, (I really do pick on him too much, but he’s such an easy target) seem to heap the praise on those cask strength whiskies that are 114 proof and up! You need to water them down with a fire hose, otherwise you essentially sear your mouth with a flame-thrower.
So, on the plus side, the ol’ Johnnie Blue Label is smooth, which in itself is not a problem. What else can I say? I dunno. I taste white cake bread and caramelized onions. On the con side, I am really not impressed. There is some smoke and peat, but not very interesting. I would not buy this. If I am going to drop a lot of money for a high end blend it will be Ballantines 17yr old, Famous Grouse 18 or 30yrs, and Royal Salute. Famous Grouse 18 and 30 year old blends offer up more complexity and interesting flavor profiles than Johnnie Walker Blue. The difference between the Famous Grouse bottlings and Johnnie Blue is the amount of marketing dollars involved. I really believe that Johnnie Walker Blue is all about marketing. The silk lined box, blue-green colored glass bottle, the quaint little booklet, individually numbered bottles and the snobby advertisements are what sell this blended scotch. If you put those same marketing dollars behind Famous Grouse 18 or 30 year old blended scotch whisky, they would achieve the same level of sales, if not better, as they are better blends.
I want to review Famous Grouse 18 and 30yr old, but just don’t have the funds right now to purchase them. The 30yr old, in particular, blows Blue Label out of the water, based on my recollection. Anyway, that’s all I have to report for now.
I agree completely with your review...blue label while nice does not show any characteristics of a great scotch. As a liquor retailer I am tasted and speak to many of the people who own these products. Diageo is the corporate that owns JW, they also own crown royal and a myriad of products. They are big corporate and when speaking with the scotch expert from Diageo, he even mentioned to me that in its own brand blue label does not match the taste and quality of the green label and gold label. Only reason blue label is so expensive is that the ingredients in it are going extinct...not a reason for anyone to shell out 200+ retail...thats just my take!ReplyDelete
Haven't tried JWB and probably won't for a while as I am stocking up Famous Grouse 30, which is being cleared out of LCBO in Ontario. Lucky in a way that I am getting it at a good price, but sadly it won't be carried again for many years. Talk about marketing: such a fantastic whisky selling at half the price of the Blue Label or Macallan 18 (each of which cost an astounding $280). The Gold Label is quite good, but I had a similar experience as you had with the Blue: I was enjoying it less and less and could barely finish the bottle. It's just that other things always seemed more interesting. The opposite happened with the Famous Grouse 30: with each glass I am developing more appreciation for this blend.ReplyDelete
Famous Grouse 30 is an incredible scotch whisky, compared to single malts or blends. I have had it at whisky tasting events only. I do not own a bottle, and so have not written a review. I find writing a review based on a whisky tasting as highly inaccurate. It helps to own a bottle and taste on various days before formulating a review.ReplyDelete
Famous Grouse 30 is reasonably priced where I live to. I think $179.
Thanks for posting!
Hm so clearly this post is a bit old but if anyone is still reading...I got to try Blue Label on a few occasions in the spring and over the summer. It's not BAD, but it certainly seemed way overrated. If I was super-rich, I'd keep Blue Label around for when I just wanted to have a Scotch without thinking too deeply about it. But I'm not super-rich so I see no good reason to shell out my own money for the stuff!ReplyDelete
While this post about ol' Johnnie Blue was written nearly a year ago, you can rest assured that people are still reading this particular post. I get stats of which are the most popular posts on this site and this one is up there in terms of popularity. I would estimate that probably 30 people a day look at this review, so your comments are not in vain.
Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts.
I bought a miniature bottle of JW Blue (0.2 litre) just for the sake of trying it. Amazingly the small bottle is supplied in a 'hi-end' packaging similar to the big 0.7/1 litre one: blueish glass for the bottle, coffin-like box with silky lining, a leaflet with embossed golden text... But the taste is really a disappointment: it's all smooth with hints of white bread and nothing else (for my rookie taste buds at least). To be fair I have to say it smells nice, however Green Label beats it nose-wise too. So, next up in my miniature venture is Highland Park 25 :-)ReplyDelete
Highland Park 25 is a big roaring whisky. Sheer power of flavors will knock you on your ass, so sip carefully and enjoy caramel, toffee with great complexity. Cheers!Delete
I lived in Edniburgh for a spell. You'd like the Famous Grouse. I went to the distillery -- it was fantastic.ReplyDelete
Sadly, I understand that Famous Grouse 18 and 30yrs have been or will be discontinued shortly.Delete
I've been an avid fan of Johnnie Walker. What I mean is that I love Scotch and JW Black Label is my go-to bottle, either on the rocks or in a God Father. I feel it is worth the ~$35. However, the Blue Label is another story entirely.ReplyDelete
Now, I should first note that I haven't yet done a side-by-side comparison of the Black and Blue Labels. However, I have drank enough Black Label to drown a kraken; I am more than familiar with its flavor(s). What I can tell you is that without a side-by-side comparison, I noticed little to no difference from the Black in the Blue.
I don't claim to have a very refined palate nor much experience with a broad spectrum of Scotch whisky. But, I don't see the ~$200 price tag of the Blue Label being justified whatsoever in comparison to another, much cheaper Label of its own brand.
Peaty, grassy, fruity, definitely cocoa and coffee notes to be found, and more than that. Oaky, the wood is there. But very inoffensive, which works more for some than others. Ridiculously smooth. Not for the snob, but definitely for someone who loves a dram of black or green label. This tastes better than both.ReplyDelete
Due to the Christmas season, end of the year bonuses, & a few other factors - I had some disposable income & decided it was time I stop reading about Blue Label & actually purchase it. As an aspiring AMATEUR scotch connoisseur, JW blends have been very curious too me. And I've oddly enjoyed their higher end products, expecting to not. The Centennary Blend was a genuine surprise to me some months ago (I managed to find 3 bottles & purchase them for a rainy day a few months ago).ReplyDelete
In any event, I bought a bottle of Blue Label & shared it with my brother as a part of our Christmas celebration. It is a fine scotch, but as many others have shared - nothing to necessarily write home about. It's pleasant to the nose & not overtly offensive. I tried it with an 1/8 of a teaspoon of water after a neat, initial sip. It was better without the water. It took the pop on the back of the tongue, off - which mellowed it unnecessarily.
All in all - it's enjoyable, but easily $125-150 over priced in my personal, amateur opinion.
I'll enjoy the bottle, but am very unlikely to buy another without a significant price decrease.
I think you have summed this blend up well. Especially with so many gorgeous single malts for less than half the price.Delete
Blue Label is for consumers who want to be assured of a very smooth Scotch and are under the misunderstanding that the more they spend the better it must be.