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.
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.
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!