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Johnnie Walker Blue Label

The Justin Trudeau of blends

5 885

@NozinanReview by @Nozinan

17th Nov 2019

1

  • Nose
    ~
  • Taste
    ~
  • Finish
    ~
  • Balance
    ~
  • Overall
    85

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

I first tasted Johnnie Walker Blue in a bar at a birthday party. Someone had bought a bottle of this, a bottle of vodka, and soda to celebrate. This was about 7-8 years ago and I had it neat with a few drops of water. This was not the ideal setting, and I honestly could not have distinguished it from the Black Label. I knew then I would never buy this, not even at less than the exorbitant price the LCBO charges.

Fast forward to November 2018 and a friend with whom I used to work gave me a goodbye (she was leaving to work elsewhere) and Christmas gift - a bottle of JW Blue. Then a month later, a brother in law cracks a JW Blue while I’m visiting and I taste it for the second time. It tastes good, and he gives me a bottle to take home. Now I have 2 bottles. What is a guy to do? Open one, which I did with friends, to celebrate my 50th last spring.

This is bottle HA7 14252. It is bottled at 40%. @Nosebleed, also my brother in law and expert whisky hunter, has an older bottling rescued from our father in law, and that one is bottled at 43%. I’m not sure when the change was made.

This bottle was opened in May, 2019, and opened only once or twice since then, gassed each time.

This expression, in a Highland whisky glass, is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water (with trepidation, considering the low ABV), waiting, then nosing and tasting.


Nose: 21.5/25

Sweet. Apples. syrup. Very fruity. Very sweet. Maybe a hint of peat / smoke in the background. Pleasant but not overly complex. I think the low ABV does this a disservice. Water enhances the peat, and makes the nose a little more complex and interesting. (22/25)

Taste: 20.5/25

Thin mouthfeel. Simple syrup on arrival, a little fruit. Vanilla and a little caramel in the development. Some peat. Again, not very complex. Water makes it more peaty and brings out some pepper. (21/25)

Finish: 21.5/25

Peat in the finish, astringent, medium length.

Balance: 21/25

The nose is far sweeter than the taste. I find both are underpowered.

Score: Neat - 84/100 With Water: 85/100


I did the above review while comparing H2H with JW Green Label, an age-stated malt blend. The nose is slightly smokier, and the palate has a lot more depth and strength of flavour.

Now let’s see if the bolder Green can beef up the bashful Blue. I put what was left together. It’s a 1:1 ratio. The mix is not bad, and is very peat forward.


OK, maybe my socialist bias is showing, or maybe I take exception to putting more effort into marketing than quality, but I prefer the JW Green to the JW blue.

Would I accept Blue if offered? Yes. Would I buy it? No. It’s not in my wheelhouse. Will I cherish the bottle given to me by a friend? Absolutely, but I will cherish it in its unopened state, and happily share the open bottle with anyone who wants to try it.


PS: For those of you wondering, Justin Trudeau is a Canadian politician known more for his style than his substance.

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8 comments

@RianC
RianC commented

@Nozinan - Thanks for the considered review. I've never tried Blue Label and have always been curious but would not be shelling out the £130 - £200 it goes for. Your notes paint the picture that I already have of this - nice, easy, generic yet drinkable and inoffensive. Maybe one day I'll pick up a 20cl bottle to try but even those go for c£40 and when I think of what else I could get ... Even the £10 for a shot in a bar makes me wince laughing

29 days ago 3Who liked this?

@65glenfarclas
65glenfarclas commented

@RianC Not a bad way to try JW Blue (and double black) for reasonable price (relative to trying at a bar): lcbo.com/webapp/wcs/… If 50 bucks is too much, wait for post-Christmas manager sales - i bought a pack last yr for $35

27 days ago 4Who liked this?

Wierdo commented

@Nozinan I love the title of your review. joy

I agree with the sentiments without ever actually trying JW Blue. I was talking to a non-whisky drinking about whisky as he wanted to buy a special bottle for his dad. Someone had recommended JW Blue to him. I described it to him as (pardon my language) 'wanker's whisky'.

27 days ago 3Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC commented

@65glenfarclas - Thanks! I'm in the UK so can't access that but they do similar packs of 20cl bottles for £100. I'd be tempted if I had more interest in the other offerings - the Double Black was a major let down ...

If I see a small bottle in the sales at some point I may take the plunge.

27 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@Nozinan thank you for your review.

It is very difficult for even intermediate level experience whisky drinkers to remember the time when they were just beginning to take an interest. For the general public mild smooth flavours are what are valued. Johnnie Walker Blue Label is made for these occasional whisky drinkers.

Can I enjoy drinking a mild and subtle (yes I do think that that is the point here) whisky like Johnnie Walker Blue Label? Sure I can, for 1 mood out of 10 or 20. But at this point I wouldn't be paying more than $ 50 per bottle for it.

26 days ago 3Who liked this?

Wierdo commented

@Victor to the casual whisky drinker 'smooth' is a compliment. To us die-hards describing a whisk(e)y as smooth is damning it with faint praise!

26 days ago 3Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@Wierdo yes, to the inexperienced drinker "smooth" connotes something better than the rough stuff they expect.

Whisky aficionados separate themselves from the general pubic by liking the more intense flavours.

26 days ago 3Who liked this?

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