Why? I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that it is usually only available through Duty Free shops at airports around the world. Oddly enough, this particular bottle was picked up for me by a good friend in Orlando at a regular brick and mortar store. But, that is a rare exception. Generally, Duty Free is where you will find Johnnie Walker Swing.
Why the name Swing?
If you visit the Johnnie Walker web site, view Ralfy's video review on You Tube, and a number of other websites, you will get basically the same story behind this blended Scotch.
The legend behind this blend is that Sir Alexander Walker (grandson of John Walker), on one of his transatlantic voyages headed to or returning from New York, spent time in the bar and noticed how the bottles would move and shift due to the movement of the ocean liner upon the seas. The bartender struggled to keep the bottles in racks in an effort to prevent breakage. Sir Alex got to thinkin' that there has got to be a better away. So, he thought and thought, and ordered his minions to design a bottle that would not be caused to fall over in such a nautical setting.
Remember that childhood toy: Weebles?
C'mon, you remember. How does that song go? Weebles wobble but they don't fall down.
That song basically sums up Sir Al's solution or the one delivered to him by his hardworking staff.
The base of the Swing bottle is convex. So, it rocks back and forth, if there is any movement of the surface it is resting upon, but nevertheless remains upright, at attention, if you will. Kinda like me, as I think about doing a whisky and food pairing episode with Nigella Lawson.
Invitingly floral with gentle sherry notes, followed by a wisp of smoke. Malty too.
Sweet wild honey smeared on dark toast. Light sherry notes (think dark red fruit) make an appearance before a transition to spiced vanilla and butterscotch.
Sherry still there. Some oak comes to the forefront before fading to a final dark red fruit note (due to the sherry influence) .
I drink this and I immediately think of Cardhu. An unexceptional 12 year old single malt, if there ever was one. Cardhu, by the way, is a core malt of this blend and really dominates on the palate.
Johnnie Walker Swing is sweet, smooth, with some honey and sherry accents. I taste a bit of old oak, and wonder how great the selection of casks of the single malts making it into this blend were.
The nose was the best part of this blend.
Highly quaffable and not offensive in the least, which leads me to believe that this is targeting a very mainstream, non-connoisseur whisky segment. Nothing wrong with that, so long as you fall within that market segment.
Value for Money?
I paid $60 for this bottle. About $20 too much in my opinion. At this price point there are a lot of great single malts that come to mind that are in the same flavor profile (Speyside honey delight) that do a far better job. I am thinking Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or, Glenfiddich 15 Solera, and Cragganmore 12.
In terms of blended Scotch whisky comparisons, Johnnie Walker Swing is similar in taste also to Dimple Pinch 15, Chivas Regal 12 and 18. The 12 is cheaper than the Swing. Chivas 18 is overpriced, but it probably comes out on top in a heads up competition with Swing.
In a post I made on You Tube, I said this was good value for $50. I think I regret that statement. $50 is too much. $40 is fair. Below $40 is good value.
So, Why Buy This?
I would buy this for the Johnnie Walker fan, a person who likes all things Johnnie. I know quite a few people of such a disposition. I think they would be amused by receiving a gift of a Johnnie Walker offering that they are not familiar with.
I would also buy this for someone who likes blends a lot, and does not enjoy the taste of peat, big smoke and other classic Islay flavors. Swing plays it real safe with the consumer. Nothing offensive here. Nothing super interesting either. We are talking pancakes with maple syrup. No blueberry Belgian waffles here with English cream.
I prefer the discontinued Green Label to Swing. I prefer Black Label to Swing. Swing is better than the newly launched Gold Label (no age statement), but not as good by any means as the old Gold Label 18 years (which naturally has been discontinued). 18 year old Platinum beats Swing and so does Blue. Mind you, those are far more expensive.
Would I buy this again? No. Why? I became bored with it quickly. I like blends, but this one is a little too simple and mainstream. It lacks complexity and pizzazz that I expect at $50-$60 price point. $40 and below makes it far more attractive. Hell, I think if I took a bottle of Cutty Sark and a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, I could create a Johnnie Walker Swing with a little zip and pizzazz much to my liking!
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2013. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission. Photo credits; Photograph of Nigella Lawson widely available on internet. Photographer is unknown If you know, drop me a line and I will give credit. This image appears purely for entertainment and educational purposes. Well maybe a little titillation too. All of other photographs taken by yours truly and can be reproduced if you give me credit and link back to this blog. Cheers!