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Johnnie Walker Black Label Extra Special 12 Year Old 43%

12 Minis! - Part VIII

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@talexanderReview by @talexander

20th Oct 2014


Johnnie Walker Black Label Extra Special 12 Year Old 43%
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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I don't know when this mini was bottled, but it differs from the current label by saying "Extra Special Aged 12 Years", and is bottled at 43% ABV. The back label indicates it was for the French market. How is it different from the standard bottling today (which is one of my favourite everyday drams)? We shall see...

The colour is a deep caramel (but slightly lighter than the current bottling). On the nose, quite malty in an old-school-Scotch-style way, with nutmeg, cloves and some vanilla. Walnuts. Baked apples with cinnamon, with more dark fruits suggesting a greater use of sherry casks that we are seeing today. Somewhat floral yet also oaky - and, of course, with juicy peat smoke wafting throughout. More malt - and more peat - with water. Extremely complex and robust, and deeper, maltier and more sherried than the current bottling.

On the palate, soft barley mingles with what seems to be a very spicy and much more pronounced peatiness than I would have guessed. More baking spices, rich caramel and vanilla. Mouthfeel is silky smooth. Water improves things by taming the spice and bringing out the malt and sherry influence. This is very high-quality Scotch. The palate is more similar to the current bottling than the nose was, but still maltier.

The finish is, again, quite spicy with more cinnamon and cloves, rich oak and vanilla. As with a few of these old minis, this has that rich old-school feel that I love so much. But don't think for a minute that this older bottling puts the current JW Black to shame. Today's Black is, to my mind, one of the best (and best value-to-quality ratio) whiskies you can get. This mini - probably from the 1980s but really I have no idea - is richer, and the kind of differences here are consistent with the differences I found between the two J&B Rares - the earlier bottlings taste older, maltier and more robust. Now if only we had a third JW Black to compare it to...that is even older...hmmmm...stay tuned...

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