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.