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@Victor generously provided me with a sample of Johnnie Walker Black, from a bottle that he purchased in 1979. So the whiskies within would have been distilled in the mid-to-late 1960s, if not earlier. This was bottled at 43.4% ABV. As I just reviewed a 43% mini (possibly bottled in the 1980s), let's see how it compares, to this and the current bottling.
The colour is a deep caramel, identical to the 43% version from the mini. On the nose, very malty with baking spices, soft peat, baked apple, caramel and vanilla. Pretty much identical to the mini I just reviewed. Beautifully done, of course. Strangely, water does little except generally mute both the nose and palate.
In the mouth we have quite a bit of malt again, with pronounced spice, baked apples, caramel and vanilla. Water tames the spices a little, which is nice, but it seems to do little else. Again - no different to the 43% mini. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
The finish is cinnamon and cloves, peat and rich oak. Well, this is identical to the mini I just reviewed - I could have cut and pasted my previous notes and that would have been fine. The only difference is in how water affects the whisky. In the 43.4% 1979, water only dilutes it, causing it to fall apart just a little. Perhaps this indicates the sample I received is more delicate, perhaps through having been more oxidized over the years? Perhaps @Victor has some insight here, as he is quite an authority on the effects of oxidation. In any case - this is excellent. As much as I love the current JW Black, I so wish they made Scotch like these older ones again...