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.