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.
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)
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)
Peat in the finish, astringent, medium length.
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.
@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