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Johnnie Walker 80's Red Label

Johnnie, Won't You Come on Home

8 090

@RianCReview by @RianC

11th Feb 2021


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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OK, third times the charm, hopefully, for this review ...

I've been dabbling in older blends of late and this is the Red counterpart to the Black from the same era I recently reviewed - it was excellent, in case you were wondering (93). All in, I paid less than a bottle of Black Label would cost now for this and, given what passes for Red Label nowadays, I might be forgiven for not having overly high expectations. Well, I was wrong.

Review is neat. A literal drop of water helped this on opening but as it passes the half-way mark, I find it's best neat. I am yet to try it on ice and doubt I will.

Nose - sweetness and spice greet the nose, followed by quite an intense nip of tangy, herbal peat, like antiseptic cream. There's a stunning, sticky-barley sugar note giving the bulk of the sweetness with some creamy, sweet popcorn notes, coming from the grain, I assume. Some white pepper, baker's ginger and a hint of oak tannins. Maybe some over-ripe tropical fruit notes in the back.

Taste - sweet and sour arrival and boy does this one fizz across the tongue - very sherbet lemon or cream soda like. That sticky barley note comes through with hints of some sherry casks in the mix - clean and slightly syrupy. The grain is adding more corn notes but it's all blended in nicely. As it develops, the peat starts to nip at the tongue - metallic, herbal and medicinal, lovely.

Finish - Short but rewarding. Some black tea tannins and a touch drying, but the stickiness and tongue nip of peat hang in there most gratifyingly.

Like the Black, I am curious as to how much OBE has had on this but you can tell that, even back then, this was a very accomplished and articulate blended Scotch. The balance of sweetness and peat here is truly excellent for a blend, and in an unusual way - I can't stress how inviting and moreish that sticky, barley sugar note is. The peat is surprisingly intense, and I'm reminded of those old cartoons where someone leaves a fresh baked pie on the window sill and the fumes invade the loveable rogue's nostrils, facing them with a moral dilemma. Well no dilemma here, this is to be cheerfully and greedily guzzled. Every smell and sip is wonderful. Sure, not overly complex but extremely gratifying.

I can't help feeling the peat element leans more to the Caol Ila than the Talisker here; the herbal nature being a big clue, as opposed to the Black, which I felt leaned to the Talisker. But who knows, right?

Sighs ... Back to the auction house it is then ha!

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