Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Johnnie Walker Swing Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Swing is one of the lesser known offerings in the Johnnie Walker brand product line.  This no-age-statement blended Scotch whisky was first launched in 1932.  You would think a blend that has been around that long would be as famous as its sibling: Red Label.

Not so.

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.

80 proof.

Nose (undiluted)
Invitingly floral with gentle sherry notes, followed by a wisp of smoke.  Malty too.

Palate (undiluted)
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.

Finish (undiluted)
Sherry still there.  Some oak comes to the forefront before fading to a final dark red fruit note (due to the sherry influence) .

General Impressions
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.

Comparison to Other Johnnie Walker Products
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!


Jason Debly

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!


  1. Great vid and review! Let's hope some clips of the Whiskey Dog gatherings show up on your Youtube channel!

    1. My wife tells me I am too reserved in the video and hiding some of my humor. I have to be careful in this age of political correctness not to cross a line in video that will surely haunt me.

      As for the Whiskey Dogs, I don't know if the world is ready for those mongrels howling about various spirits in their bowls.

  2. No, I don't think so. The bottle is not that special and not collectible by any means.

    Is it worth $47? Not for me. $40 and below would be where I might buy it.

    I am assuming that at $47, you can get some good entry level single malts like Cragganmore, Glenfiddich 15 (might be hard at that price) and others. If they are all more expensive, I guess $47 is fair.

  3. Jason, Here in SoCal Swing is $50 and available from just about every liquor store and big box discounter. I find the whisky pleasant and overpriced. But it's also something that's proven useful for offering to guests. I think it's probably smoother than most single malts and more challenging than most blends that casual drinkers have ever tried. A gateway whisky, a marketer would say. BTW, there's a fair heap of unpeated and peated Caol Ila in there too. JK

    1. I didn't pick up much peat action in this blend. Some effervescence though.

      Always good to hear from you!

  4. Hello brother, I'm new to whisky, I'm more of a beer kind of guy, but I've been enjoying some new whiskys now that I can afford them.

    I've drank Jack Daniels and Ballantines 12. I have to say so far I liked Jack better. It's very simple, and has absolutelly no change. But its strong and bitter, just how I like my beer. Any good suggestions for someone like me?

    I've been thinking to go as far as 12 years, that's what I can afford right now at least.

    BTW, great reviews, very informative.

    1. If you like "strong and bitter" beer, maybe consider Jim Beam Black bourbon. It kinda has a porter or stout style that I think you would enjoy and is very reasonably priced.

      Bushmills Black Bush and Jameson's 12 year old are two Irish whiskies that come to mind that you may also enjoy.

      A cheap but tasty economy blended Scotch whisky to consider is Teacher's Highland Cream. Lots of bacon, smoke and brine notes that I think you would enjoy.

      Glad you like the reviews. I appreciate the compliment.


  5. G'day. I think at $90 here in Aus it is way too expensive. I bought a bottle of Swing Superior 43% for about $38AUS in Japan (not duty free either). I thought that was very nice (a very mouth filling malty softness) for the price.

  6. best stuff you can find. are you looking for scotch or a bunch of other flavors in your scotch. you can flavor scotch with assorted finishes and what do you have? scotch that has been cloyed by port, madeira, bubblegum, chili & cheese. this spirit is smooth and has a great butterscotch flavor. with the old high quality malts used it doesn't leave you with a headache upon regular drinking. great stuff, who cares about tasting a smorgasbord, I like whisky and one that serves up a wonderful palate between drinks as that's ulitimately what you are stuck with for the minutes between drinks.......its about the palate and aftertaste I'm left with. no alcohol burn or other off flavors, just good whiskey, IMO.

  7. I bought the Swing on a cruise about 14 years ago and have been collecting a little bit of Scotch and Irish over the years. I enjoy Irish red breast. And have never opened the Swing ,doesn't sound like I'm missing much

  8. I bought the Swing on a cruise ship about 14 years ago and thought it was a cool bottle .since then I ve been collecting Irish and Scotch. .one of my favorites is Irish Red Breast have you tried it?

  9. I tend to agree with the reviewer, and in my book a bottle of Sheep Dip beats a bottle of JW Swing by all means day and night.

  10. I have a bottle that dates back to the early 50's. It is unopened and has original stamp on it from import. Wonder if it is still good.

  11. Had a re read of your review and comparisons... I was seriously thinking of grabbing a bottle for next years golf trip.... At over $50 more than JWB.... Gee... you're buying it pretty much for the bottle shape aren't you... well... back to the drawing board Ha ha !!
    AL (from OZ)

  12. Looking at taking Whisky duty free to a couple we will be staying with in Sydney but although we are great friends and flirt a bit the name Swing might be a bit too much!

  13. I had like 3 or 4 bottles of Swing in my life time, the price was $50 and it was available in Florida at the ABC liquor store and Total Wine & More. I found it interesting, somewhere between Black and Green label. It was the last formula from Sir Alexander Walker and the basis for more complex blends. It seems you have your opinion, but it is just yours, lol.

  14. Just a little note to whisky connoisseurs, all whisky is cooked with peat, but the difference in flavours is caused by what is in the peat. All island malt whisky, are referred to as very peaty or very smokey, this is down to the amount of seaweed in the peat. Talisker is a prime case, quite antiseptic because of the seaweed which gives of iodine.