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Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Walking with Johnnie and Friends!

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@SquidgyAshReview by @SquidgyAsh

31st Mar 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Recently I got together with a very good friend of mine, in fact the one who purchased me my first bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label. Every couple of months or so we try to meet up for dinner and a movie.

However my friend had recently become hooked on a couple of new restaurants. See my friend is this awesome foodie. He knows the good restaurants, he knows the bad ones and he knows what to order at the good ones.

Over the course of us hanging out he started talking about these new restaurants, which made me perk up my ears and do a double take.

Why you might ask?

It's also the home of two new whisky bars that I'd seen Graham from the Odd Whisky Co on Facebook mention as being excellent whisky bars.

We both did double takes when we realized that his restaurants and my bars were one and the same. He extracted a promise out of me.

That I wouldn't go to them without him first. He wanted to show me around and especially since he knew most of the workers at both restaurants, wanted to introduce me to them.

Totally cool!

A couple of weeks go by and we both have time to head out for a dinner and drinks. So I meet up with him in the city after work and we head over to the first whisky bar.

The Lafayette.

A nice looking bar, I'm eager to take a look at their whisky menu and to see what I can see.

A nice little selection, 99% which I've already had, fairly reasonable prices on most of the whiskies, not much is jumping out at me as a must try, until I hit the blends.

Johnnie Walker Blue, supposedly the pinnacle of whisky according to most non whisky geeks.

Runs $200 a bottle and in my experience is the most often referenced whisky in movies and tv shows for when you're trying to show off that your drinking the good stuff.

An example of this would be a little while ago on Burn Notice when Michael, Jessie and the gang are after a bad guy, a drug dealer if I recall, and Jessie drinks the bad guy's whisky in order to slip him something. Jessie apologizes and offers to buy a whisky, what's he having? Jack and coke? To which the drug dealer replies that he's drinking $100 dollar shots of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

Anyway you never see it for purchase by the dram, or if you do it's like $50+, which I'm sorry, but that price point is reserved for SPECIAL whiskies, from distilleries that are long closed or for whiskies older then my father.

It's going for $35 a dram here. I'll take one please.

Pale liquid and to be honest I have no idea what I'm walking into.

Let's start with a nose.

Lovely little nose that is fairly complex, vanilla, hints of smoke, brown sugars, salt, pears, white pepper, little earthy at times, honey, funky sour apples, little floral at times, cinnamon.

Interesting and by far the most complex nose I've ever encountered on a blend.

Maybe this whisky will be worth $200! Time to give it a taste as that's the only way I'll find out!

Smooth, very very smooth. Floral with honey, some fruit, pears and a hint of apples, some salt and pepper, hints of peat smoke, some spices such as cinnamon, oak and underneath it all, something that feels a little bit...artificial.

However that smoothness hurts itself, there's nothing in there that really grabs your attention and says "hey look at me!"

A short finish that's floral and honestly a little harsh ends off this whisky.

I'm left unimpressed. If this were a beer I'd equate it with a decent lager or pilsner, something that is sessionable and that you might drink a 6 pack over the course of the evening if you didn't want to focus too much on what your drinking.

Now that's not a bad for a whisky to be. Most entry level single malts and bourbons are DESIGNED to be sessionable, something that you can have three or four drinks in a row.

HOWEVER if I'm drinking a $20 bottle of beer, it DAMN well better NOT be sessionable. It needs to grab my attention in a way that makes me put down everything that I'm doing and focus my attention on it. Same thing with a whisky. $50 dollar bottles are fine if the whisky doesn't hold your attention. However $200+ dollar bottles need to grab your attention and make you focus on the whisky.

Is Johnnie Walker Blue Label a bad whisky? No it's not. By no means is it a bad whisky, but it sure as heck isn't worth $200, I'd honestly pay $60 to $80 for a bottle of this caliber. If you're looking for a good blend/vatted whisky, grab yourself a bottle of their Green Label before it runs out. More bang for less buck then the Blue Label!

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indynoir commented

I really like the Blue Label, and it's my opinion that blue label gets a more critical eye in reviews due to the price tag and marketing bliss which sets up perfectly for a big fall. Thus, I strongly believe this whisky routinely suffers from a sort of negative confirmation bias going in. We know it's not that good and go looking for the flaws to brink this cocky, arrogant, over-rated beast down. If it we're $60 and not highly touted, possible many would go looking for all the wonderful attributes making it a value whisky. I'm a believer in rating the liquid in the bottle and not letting price or marketing color the review, and this whisky is just too controversial I think to get that kind of review. However, with that being said...I couldn't agree with you more about Johnnie Walker Green...an amazing blend. It's every bit as good as the Blue in my book and for a much better price. Yes, give me 3 bottles of green over 1 blue any day.

8 years ago 0

SquidgyAsh commented

@Indynoir, my friend I couldn't agree more with you. I've seen so many reviews that just hammered on the Blue label, again and again, saying it was crappy, over rated, etc etc. Is it crappy? Definitely not! Is it overrated? In my opinion yes. It's a nice little whisky and like I said I think it's biggest flaw is that it's just a little too easy going for the price tag without any oomph behind it that I like to see in my whiskies, especially my more costly ones.

Johnnie Walker Blue sort of reminds me of quite a few of the Australian whiskies. My brother in law was visiting Limeburners, one of my favorite distilleries, and while there a few of the whiskies had his eye, specifically the cask strengths. Problem is that the cask strengths run from $350 to $500 a bottle. And so I received an sms from him that basically said that he'd love a bottle, but at that price he could be picking up a Stagg or a Handy from Buffalo Trace and still have money left over. Blue is the same way. Nice whisky but at the $200 to $250 that I've seen it sell for I can pick up some AWESOME whiskies and have money left over. It really makes me wish that they'd drop the price point on it. Even $120 I could understand, but just not $200.

8 years ago 0

indynoir commented

You have written a fair review on a brand I believe many others struggle to do so, so nice work! Though I would have probably rated a bit higher. Over rated in popular culture but still a nice whisky is my consensus as well. And yes...the bashing of blue seems to be quite overdone at times and thus ironically under rated in other circles. I read another member who coined the phenomenon "reverse snobbery," which I thought summed it up quite well. I'm always perplexed when I see people give Green and Black ratings in the high 80's, and then give Blue a 75-80. There is something out of sorts going on there...not that I could never see someone enjoying one of those more than the blue, but I've sampled all three several times and it's hard for me to imagine Black consistently getting higher ratings than Blue, and yet it does more often than not among whisky forums, or on-line gurus. For me there is no comparison between Blue and Black. Black is nice, but it's far simpler than blue. Green however another story, but still interesting how it's so consistently rated much higher than the blue which I think holds its own to Green. Of course, on this site three reviews have blue at 32, 60, 70...while the lowest review for Black is 75. I would assume those crazy low marks for blue are distorting things quite a bit. So yes....my guess is the liquid in the bottle is not being reviewed with the same objectivity as other brands, but rather the liquid is being reviewed versus unrealistic expectations and annoyance related to the bravado of the brand image, and thus the head scratching marks. However, I must say $120 still sounds a bit steep for this bottle. I might purchase regularly if it was priced closer to Green, or at least Gold. I must confess I'm not a huge Blue fan despite how this may sound, it's simply there is some psychology with this brand I find fascinating.

8 years ago 0

SquidgyAsh commented

@Indynoir Thanks for that compliment! I REALLY strive to judge the whisky in the glass, not the hype, however I'm willing to bet that if this whisky was sitting at $100 or cheaper it probably would have moved up a point or two. The reason I say I'd be willing to pay up to $120 or so for a bottle of this is because over here the Green Label can run anywhere from $60 to $75 a bottle, not sure how much it runs in the US.

As for the reverse snobbery I can only agree with you. It's one of those situations where I think people like to be able to say "Look how high my tastes are, Blue label sucks etc." Mind you that's just a sneaky feeling. On that same note I think you sometimes see that reverse snobbery on older whiskies, more expensive whiskies and Silent distilleries. I think that most people forget that above $200 or so, you're more paying for how good other people think the whisky not how good it really is. At that price point you're paying to try something more for the thrill of trying something like that, i.e a 50 yr old whisky, a cask strength silent distillery, the experience of it, not bang for buck.

8 years ago 0

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