Friday, August 2, 2013
Review: Johnnie Walker Platinum Label aged 18 years
Sherry, oak, chocolate fondue, wet leaves, loam, mint.
Blood oranges, sherry, rosewater, dark plums, raspberries.
Salt, very subtle smoke (methinks Talisker), and crisp red grapes.
The first couple of sips are accompanied by some feisty spiciness, but that settles down to a red fruit, sherry infused taste experience that is very satisfying. Very quaff-able. Very smooth. Goes down way too easy.
Blended scotch consumers place a premium on smoothness above all other qualities. Platinum Label delivers. There are no sharp or pointed sticks here. It's all velvet pillows and satin sheets. Trouble is, when a blend is that smooth, it has to sacrifice complexity of flavor. That's what has happened here.
Not happening here.
Don't misunderstand me.
This is good, solid, premium blended Scotch whisky.
I enjoy it. But, the price of $149 is ridiculous (and maybe capable of tempting a prosecutor to lay a charge of larceny).
A good friend of mine, on his way to Isleworth picked this bottle up for me at Duty Free in Orlando, Florida for about $85. I paid him back, so I am doing some serious Deep Blue value-for-money calculations, and I am still unsure whether or not it is worth it. Well, actually, that is not entirely true.
Barry Goldwater campaign billboard, that read: "In your heart you know he's right." Similarly, in my heart, I know I'm right when I think I am paying too much for Platinum Label, even at Duty Free prices. I think this should be priced at about $60.
So far, we have established that Johnnie Walker Platinum Label is a good blended Scotch whisky, very drinkable, pleasant and pretty solid. Unfortunately, due to the high price, we whisky nuts demand some complexity. This is because for the same amount of money there are other blends (ie. Hibiki 17, 21, Johnnie Walker Green, etc) that are priced lower and deliver magical complexity. Moreover, for much less money we can buy single malts that deliver pixies who dance on our palates doing nude interpretive dances that leave nothing to the imagination.
So, who buys Platinum?
Probably not whisky aficionados seeking a good value for money proposition.
I know that there are a lot of affluent, casual consumers of Scotch whisky who would bring out this premium blend during the holidays or in moments of celebration (weddings!). These consumers want a smooth, pleasant, non-offensive whisky experience, and at the same time they want to demonstrate to their friends and family that they have the means to buy the best. The handsome packaging, the high price, the lofty age statement and the precious metals marketing slant all satisfy that expectation. I speculate that this would be a very desirable bottle in countries whose economies have an emerging middles class who want to announce that they have "arrived." I am thinking: China, Russia, Brazil, India, and many others.
I am also thinking so called mature economies like Canada, United States, England and others also have plenty of consumers who want the same assurances and a need to make the same declaration.
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2013. All rights reserved except for photograph of Barry Goldwater presidential campaign billboard. Photographer unknown, and image appears widely on internet. Photograph was taken in 1964, in Atlantic City, NJ, USA. It states: "In your heart, you know he's right." A sign placed below it challenges: "Yes . . . extreme right." All images on this blog are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.
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Loved your blog on Johnnie Walker Platinum. It's one of my favourite JW blends, and one of my favourite blends in general. Agree with you as well though that it is overpriced. In any case, it's a great whisky and in a cool bottle.ReplyDelete
The bottle really is beautiful. I mean I feel bad tossing it in the recycle bin. Very masculine and maybe says to me on some level that I have "arrived" which is a thought that I guiltily enjoy.Delete
Thanks for commenting.
Thanks for falling on your financial sword and giving us a review of this vastly overpriced blended scotch. $165, even $80, is a ridculous amount to spend on a blend. For less money, I'd buy Talisker itself or JW Black if I wanted a blend. Even better, for a Diageo blend, I could buy a year's supply of White Horse!!!ReplyDelete
What a dilemma? One bottle of Platinum or a year's supply of White Horse? I know which I would choose!Delete
Hint: White Horse!
I think you nailed it: this is a drink to be seen and bragged about more than imbibed. For that price I expect Lagavulin or similar richness and quality. The price has a benefit, however. It makes my Teachers, at a tiny fraction of the cost, taste even better!ReplyDelete
You mentioned a couple of posts ago that you got ahold of some George Dickel. I'm looking forward to you impressions.
Jeff The Bear
The George Dickel Rye review is coming up shortly. Next is Caol Ila 12!Delete
Nice to hear from you. Hope all is well!
Jason, Thanks once again for a fine review. The Platinum Label impressed you just as I suspected it would me, as a very smooth, somewhat complex, overpriced daily style dram. It appears to have been positioned priced as an indulgence for casual drinkers who want to move up from cheaper JW (Gold ? Green ?) entries. I think your wallet took one for the team this month ! It goes for $75 US at many places around here, but the pickings at that level are just so much more interesting than this, I agree. Green and Gold Label barrels re-purposed, I'd probably call it. JKReplyDelete
Yes, I think you called it right.Delete
I think Diageo are looking at the success they have had with Blue Label and are trying to replicate it with Platinum.
As for more interesting choices at the $75 price point, I know all about it. Got a bottle of Caol Ila 12 on the go right now, and am liking it a lot!
Mmmm Caol Ila 12 - I was lucky enough to pick up a couple bottles on closeout in PA for $29 last year - one of my best buys yet.Delete
$29? Yes, that would be one of the best buys of the year for Caol Ila. Good move!Delete
Jason, Was the Platinum bottle you sampled of the 43% or the 40% strength ? I understand both are in the North American market right now. JKDelete
40% ABV. I would imagine the 43% would really improve it and offer up some complexity that I feel is missing.Delete
"Moreover, for much less money we can buy single malts that deliver pixies who dance on our palates doing nude interpretive dances that leave nothing to the imagination."ReplyDelete
Ha! That's pure gold! Your talent as a word-smith is one of the qualities that keeps me coming back, Jason.
It's kind of sad that the blenders at JW are being directed to create these "prestige" blends that don't measure up to the excellent (and much more reasonably priced) Green that they already make. Maybe that's why the Green is going away in most of the world...
What review is next?ReplyDelete
Caol Ila 12 years in response to popular demand!Delete
How are you? hope all is fine?
My question is: How would you rank the labels of the Johnnie Walker range? first, second, third, etc?
And did you perceive differences between jw gold and jw platinum?
I am very good indeed. Thank you for asking.Delete
And now for your question concerning the ranking of the Johnnie Walker portfolio. I would rank them as follows, but please note I have not included Johnnie Walker Swing. I have a bottle but have not had an opportunity to open and evaluate. I understand it is quite good. In any case, excluding Swing, I would rank as follows:
(1) Green Label - being discontinued but there is a fair bit still available in the supply chain;
(2) Platinum Label - Yeah, I like it better than Blue. Blue is very good but I just like the sherry emphasis of Platinum more.
(3) Blue Label - Drinking Blue is to taste a refined and polished blend that is surprisingly smoked and delightfully peated.
(4) Black Label - Yep, I like more than the new, no-age-statement Gold Label. The new Gold Label is a real disappointment for me. If you can find its predecessor, the Gold 18 years age statement, grab it. The 18 exhibited one of the finest noses in all of whisky. The taste was really unique too. I have seen a few bottles still kicking around at the retail level.
(5) Gold Label - This new Gold Label is a real disappointment for me. A shadow of its former self.
(6) Red Label brings up the rear, but you know, it is not by any means terrible. Obviously makes for a good base of a cocktail, but even on its own, I enjoy the smoke and peppered peat. Toss an ice cube in the glass, and fight the heat with Johnnie Red.
Welcome to the blog!
Jason, FWIW, We've learned from Diageo fellows that the composition of the Gold label has changed, as you've noticed. The majority contribution to the malt component is no longer of fruit-driven Glen Elgin nor the second dominant Linkwood; it is now the more restrained, saltier, more mineral malt from Clynelish. JKDelete
Linkwood is a wonderful malt and it is a pity that it is no longer an ingredient in the once great Gold Label. I bet you Cragganmore is greatly reduced too.Delete
A real pity to abandon a beautiful blend.
hi jason, where do you put the old gold label 18yo in the above jw ranking?ReplyDelete
I would rank the old Gold Label 18 in 2nd place following Green. No doubt about that!Delete
Thank you for the blog. It has helped to shape my selections and pointed me towards several scotches I now enjoy. I am late in finding out about the JW Gold switch, so I called around to my local stores and found a bottle at $115(USD). Would you comment on the value at that price?Delete
I cannot recommend the new Gold Label for $115. As for the previous edition of Johnnie Walker Gold 18yr old, at $115 I would not buy it either. I would be looking at buying single malts that would be priced much cheaper: Cragganmore 12, Glenfiddich 15, Dalwhinnie, Glenmorangie Nectar D''Or all have some similarities with Johnnie Walker Gold, but are cheaper and better than the new Gold.Delete
Johnnie Walker packaging, ad campaigns and overall snob appeal are very attractive, but dont let it fool you. Buy a whisky because it tastes good and represents good value for money. At $115, Gold Label doesnt make sense.
Mister, which one do you prefer and why: glenlivet 15 or glenlivet 18?ReplyDelete
Thank you very much.
Glenlivet 18 because it seems more complex, concentrated and brilliant. The 15 is good but less exceptional. For more detail, check out my reviews here:Delete
whats your favorite glass to drink whisky? I dont have a glencairn, I use a brandy snifter. What about you?ReplyDelete
When I am taking formal tasting notes of a whisky I will use a Glencairn glass as it captures the aromas of the whisky that I have to make note of.Delete
However, if I am chilling out with friends or in front of the TV, I really prefer a crystal tumbler (sometimes referred to as an "old fashioned"). There is something very relaxed and casual about the tumbler.
As for brandy snifters, I have two and use them on occasion too. Nothing wrong with them.
Another quirk I have is that the glass I use must be crystal. I am convinced whisky tastes better in crystal.
@Anon re: Brandy SnifterDelete
I ONLY use a brandy snifter. Good choice! I tried a GlenCairn but far too stifling - a medium sized - or larger - snifter really opens up the material. I was put on to questioning the "Standard" GlenCairn by a bit of a row on Amazon in the reviews. I eventually agreed with the minority nay-sayer and that is all I use. I love the feel - I love the experience I can get.
I enjoyed the review, and wanted to thank you for taking the time to run the blog. I was also hoping that you could recommend a good relatively cheap blnded scotch for a daily dram. If it helps I tend to prefer scotches that are less on the peaty side though I can enjoy a bit of smoke. The Peat Monster is a bit much for me though.ReplyDelete
Hi! Glad you enjoy this site. Nice to hear positive feedback.Delete
Now on to your question. A good blended Scotch whisky suggestion will depend upon your preferred flavor profile. Cheap blends that I recommend for the person who likes some peat and smoke, but not overwhelmingly so (and to a lesser degree than Peat Monster) should check out "Black Bottle," "While Horse" and "Islay Mist 8yrs." All of these choices are super cheap priced and very quaffable blends that provide the gentlest of introductions to Islay. Really for $20 you can't go wrong.
If you prefer a more honeyed, caramel, bacon, smoke flavor profile, then you must consider Teacher's Highland Cream. Great smoke, bacon, sea salt and plenty of malt form a great backbone of taste.
In the same vein, "Te Bheag" is another blend worth trying (if you can find it).
For a classic blended Scotch that delivers great caramel and smoke, Johnnie Walker Black 12 years is excellent. The smoke taste comes from Talisker being a part of the blend. Great stuff. The only thing I do not like about Black Label is the price. Lately it seems to be getting really out of hand. Not sure if it fits into the "daily dram" category given its price.
Jason, Just curious about the price climb you're seeing for JW Black. What are prices rising to, from, and over what period ? What's the delta between it and solid first tier malts ? Here, it's still being priced where it's been for couple years, at discounters and big box stores for under $28 US. It's not a bottle I seek, but it seems to offer high value given its appeal, that is at $12 under HP12y, Aberfeldy 12y, and Glenfiddich 15y. JKDelete
JK, where I live Johnnie Black retails for $49.99! At $52 you get into entry level 12 year old single malts like Old Pulteney and others.Delete
Over 7 years I have seen the price of Black Label go from $35 to where it is now. Reason? I suspect it is not Diageo, but rather the government where I am marking up the blend to boost revenues for its coffers. Government here owns and controls all liquor stores.
If you can acquire Johnnie Black for under $28 you should try it more often. Great value!
Thanks, I will definitely check all of those out. I have tried Johnny Walker Black and think it is pretty good. I am still relatively new to the scotch world, and want to try everything!I have done research and have found recommendations for the cheaper single malts but blended scotch has been more difficult.ReplyDelete
Another question I should have included in the original: What about cheaper blends that fall more towards the speyside and wine finished side of things, if they even exist?
Thanks for the advice.
Chivas Regal 12 comes to mind as fitting the stereotypical Speyside honey, lemon zest flavor profile (mind you Speyside can be peated too). Anyway, for a cheap blend, try Cutty Sark. Really smooth, apples and orchard fruit, puff of smoke but very short finish. Dirt cheap.Delete
when caol ila 12? and whats after that? (parings, comparisons,battles, the good the bad and the ugly) just ideas...ReplyDelete
I really enjoy your blog.
Caol Ila is coming soon. I am sampling, studying and deciding what to say. Gimme a couple of days.Delete
Thanks for letting me know you enjoy the blog. I appreciate it.
whats the single malt of james bond? I think is Macallan.ReplyDelete
I always thought Bond's single malt was Talisker. Macallan may have made an appearance in the last movie.Delete
Jason... I thought you were going to do a Dewar's white label review, I'de love to hear your opinion on that particular blend.ReplyDelete
I'll see what can be done. Thanks for reminding me.Delete
Do you plan on reviewing what they call the HIDDEN MALTS:ReplyDelete
Neither of those malts are available where I live. Glen Ord is priced out of my reach anyway.Delete
hi could you take more photos of your single malts whisky collection?ReplyDelete
I think its beautiful.
Maybe others could put links to photos of their single malt collection.
what do you think?
I will see what I can do.Delete
On a slightly different note, I have thought of doing a whisky picture of the week sort of thing. Will toy with the idea a little further and maybe post some pics.
I totally understand you: I once got a Johnnie Walker Blue Label as a present, finding out much later what the person had actually paid for it. I guess he was kind of disappointed by my first reaction after taking a sip, as he thought he had purchased something immensely wonderful in terms of taste.ReplyDelete
I thought it was a good drop, but also that there are bottles below 25 EUR in my collection which give me equal or even a little more joy.
When I found out about the price, I called him up and explained.... since then, he has gotten into the habit of asking me before actually buying a bottle :-)
"very subtle Islay smoke (methinks Talisker)"ReplyDelete
Talisker is from Skye.
Oops! An error on my part. Will correct in review.Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
I actually liked this one but wasnt wowed by it like i was with gold 18 year. I dont mind a less complex easy drinking whisky but...if so the few flavours i can taste have to be good, the whisky has to be smooth, and clean. I think this one does that and for the price in australia i paid $99 for 750ml vs $69 green label 700ml is not bad and worth it to me. Very smooth clean whiskys like this are never cheap. My wife prefers this over almost any other spirit so if she can drink it easy...that says somethingReplyDelete
Just bought my first bottle of Platinum (43%). Ran $99.00 in Connecticut, before sales tax. My review? Not worth it. Green, Blue, and Gold (old or new) are better than platinum, and in that order. Much better than black or double black. Not even fair to compare to red. Jason, I agree this label is more for show than enjoyment given its price.ReplyDelete
On the one hand, I am glad to read that your opinion concurs with my own. On the other, I feel sorry that you dropped that much money when you could have had much better high end blends or single malts.Delete
Diageo are masters of marketing and understand a fundamental truth about whisky consumers. They know how to appeal to the male ego's desire to feel that he has "arrived" or he is successful and his need to make this apparent to everyone. A mental paradigm that I am conscious of, but nevertheless tortured by from time to time.
thanks for commenting, other readers benefit from your experience.
Hi Jason any tips on the best served way to have the plat? Your serving recommendations really are the best.ReplyDelete
I think the best way to serve this is neat at room temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Like most whiskies, this is not ideal in hot, humid weather.Delete
You could experiment with water, but I think this is best enjoyed neat. Ice? Hey at a party, why not, so long as it is on someone else's dime.