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Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Something Golden

0 1081

@talexanderReview by @talexander

8th Feb 2013

0

  • Nose
    19
  • Taste
    23
  • Finish
    18
  • Balance
    21
  • Overall
    81

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Tonight in Toronto, we are being hit with what is said to be the worst storm in decades. That seems pretty far fetched (I guess we'll see in the morning!), but regardless, I cancelled my plans to see a movie and am toasty warm inside, with this new Johnnie Walker expression. The Gold Label Reserve (with no age statement) replaces the Gold Label 18 Year Old. As you may know, the old 18 Year Old bottling is discontinued, as is the Green Label 15 Year Old blended malt (so if you have bottles of these put aside - hang onto them! Old and discontinued Johnnie Walkers are among the very few blends that increase in value over time). There is also a new 18 Year Old called "Platinum". I've had the old 18 Year Old (as well as the new Platinum) during a Johnnie Walker flight at Spirit House, and I remember liking it quite a bit, but I have no tasting notes to refer back to.

So why the change? Well, the most obvious answer is - they are running a little thin on older stocks - they have to use whiskies in this that are less than 18 years old. And with sales of older age-statement whiskies rapidly growing in Asian markets, they are being shipped there, leaving European and North American consumers with more NAS (No Age Statement) whiskies. This is not necessarily a bad thing - I'm not one to summarily equate older whiskies with quality - but it's an interesting (and sensible, from a financial standpoint) shift in distribution patterns. But enough of the business - back to the spirit!

The colour is a dark reddish gold. Surprisingly, the nose is a little more closed than you might expect. Caramel, honey, vanilla, crisp maltiness, and some clean grain. Minty notes as well. There are oranges and some other fruity notes. A whiff of smoke in the back, but only just. With water, a bit more smoke, with some sawdust. Simple but lovely.

In the mouth, this is incredibly silky smooth - absolutely beautiful mouthfeel. There is both brine and white pepper - this seems to have more Talisker influence than other Johnnie Walkers. But otherwise there is not a lot going on - it's very smooth, with many of the same fruits, caramels and vanillas that are on the nose. Very luxurious, however - incredibly easy to drink!

Very warming on the finish, but at the very end a little rough, with more sea salt and spice. It is nicely balanced but the taste and mouthfeel really do stand out. Again, I don't recall too much of how the old 18 Year Old tasted, though Jim Murray (who rates the new Reserve a 91.5) says the nose is heavier than it's predecessor. If memory serves, I preferred the old 18 Year Old but of course I cannot be sure. I would love to hear from anyone who has compared both - and also anyone who might have more insight into the reasons for this change in bottling.

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10 comments

Rigmorole commented

Great review. It's nice to see you are making lemonade out of lemons (hard weather). Do you remember all of those great old films where characters came in out of a snow storm to a nice warm fire and a glass of good scotch? I do. Even though I am only in my forties.

I do take exception with one small point you mention in your review, which is more of an after thought than a part of your review: Why is it "sensible" to ship older stock to Asia and leave westerners with no age statements? I don't see your logic. Are the Asian paying more for it? If not, then I think consumer loyalty should be rewarded, not betrayed, especially when the price of the Gold has remained the same (has it not?) despite the fact that it's now younger whiskies.

I am not at all happy with Scotland's distilleries sending their older whisky to Asia, even if it is blended single malts, etc. It's insulting to me, especially when I am charged the same. I'm not the sort of consumer to roll over easily when my brand loyalty is so easily shrugged off to new and emerging markets.

I just bought a bottle of Highland Park 18 that does not at all taste as it should. It makes me wonder if Highland Park is shipping the best bottles to Asia. At any rate, I have heard that Highland Park quality has been slipping. If they are indeed shipping their best product to Asia then to hell with them!

Thanks again for your well written review. It's refreshing to see that many Canadians like you do indeed know how to write well. So many Americans have grown lazy about the written word. It's a sad trend here that is definitely linked to a sabotaged educational system and a mass media that is also purposefully dumbing down the population with horrible grammar, usage, and vocabulary. George Orwell's vision for the future was not prophetic; it was well informed (from the inside, as it were). His father worked for the Ministry of Opium and his bread and butter was made writing propaganda for the BBC (British Brainwashing Corporation).

Well done, Talexander! Stay warm! You certainly have some great bottles to heat up your insides. I hope you also have a fire to brighten your house, or at least a good furnace.

8 years ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

@rigamorole, thank you for your kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed the review. And please check out @Victor's reviews - he is based in Maryland, is a wonderful writer and a good friend. I've had the pleasure of sharing innumerable drams with he and his wife @Dramlette - you will be very impressed with his writing style, insight and love of whisky. I hear what you are saying about writing styles in general, and it is as true in Canada as it may be in the US - but being both a whisky nut and working in the film industry, I have so many American friends and colleagues who are eloquent, intelligent and highly cultured.

And I totally understand what you are saying about my comment re: the sensibility of sending the older age statements to Asian markets. I think part of me meant that to be a little provocative but I can see it from their point-of-view. I tried to qualify it somewhat by saying that I do not summarily equate older whiskies with quality. If there are markets that purchase - either for enjoyment or investment - whiskies with older age statements - and are willing to pay a high premium for them, which they are - then as a business decision it is a wise one. As for brand loyalty - I think it is too early to tell. Will those who love Johnny Walker miss the old 18 Gold and be pissed about being stuck with the new Gold Reserve? I really don't know. If they are, and if Diageo loses customers over it, I am wrong (and Diageo will have made a grave mistake). But throughout the history of whisky, brands have changed and evolved (and devolved) over time. Now, as a consumer, I agree with you - in a perfect world, all expressions would be available equally to all consumers. But unfortunately that is not the reality of the business. And perhaps the new Gold Reserve will be embraced by Johnny Walker fans, and be preferred over the old 18 Gold. I really don't know. Time will tell. I know @Victor and @Dramlette love the old 18 Gold, so I'm keen to read a comparison review!

I'm sorry to ready the HP18 is not up to snuff. It's still one of my favourites, but admittedly I have not sat down and gone through it with any detail....

And yes. Orwell was right. Goddamn him.

T

8 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

Good, thorough review @talexander. I was tempted to try this one while I still have a few drams of the original 18 yr. old Gold left for comparison. It's $25 less than the Gold 18 in BC. However, I decided to grab 3 bottles of Green Label before they disappear. Last time I looked online there were 4 left in BC. Is there much left in the Toronto area? I'm thinking, based on several reviews, yours included, that my next purchase will be Compass Box Spice Tree. Just picked up Great King Street Artists Blend which I will save until we get back from Mexico in 3 weeks. Reviews on it sound good too.

8 years ago 0

Rigmorole commented

I just don't see what the hoopla is all about regarding the Green Label. Sheep Dip Hebridean was a much better Islay single malt blend, in my estimation. In fact, I've made some of my own vattings that taste better than Green Label to my own taste buds.

Here's one of them: 3/8 Caol Ila; 2/8 Talisker; 1/8 Laphroaig QC; 1/8 Lagavulin; 1/8 HP12. Let the blend sit in its own bottle for three weeks with 1/3 air in the bottle. Don't open it at all. After three weeks, you won't be disappointed, believe me. The Caol Ila is remarkably flexible and binds all of the other parts together in a delicious way without dominating after the wait time in the bottle is over. I recommend vatting when your bottle of Caol Ila is running low. For me, that's the best time. A mellowed Caol Ila vats better, especially if you want to try a vatting in which you do simple 50/50 with non-Islay malts, such as HP12 or Ardmore. For me, Caol Ila is the easist Islay to vat without weird "harmonics" ruining the end result.

I'm interested in trying Peat Monster. I'm going to try and buy that and Spice Tree today. I passed both up last week and regret it.

8 years ago 0

Rigmorole commented

I think this is what Sheep Dip H was: Dalmore, Fettercairn, and Ardbeg. It's not really fair to compare it with Green, since SDH is more sweet, however. Green is very good! Once it's gone, no need to feel any regret. Try vatting your own, that's all I'm saying. With the Islays, it's easier than you think!

8 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@rigmorole. Good suggestion, I'll give home blending a try. Our problem up here in BC is one of availabity. We don't have a lot to choose from thanks to the government monopoly on liquor distribution and sales. They currently list 130 single malts and 48 blends. Each size of each JW or Chivas etc counts as one. So, for instance, 4 of that 48 would would be the 4 bottle sizes of JW Red, same for Black, same for Ballantines Finest (3 sizes) etc. I wish we had access to Sheep Dip, Black Bottle, BNJ, Blue Hanger etc. but we are stuck with what we have got. I usually grab a couple of interesting bottles when I'm down in Hood River, Oregon visiting the in-laws. Good selection and good prices in Portland.

I think @talexander has a better selection, but equally high prices, on the other side of the country in Toronto (otherwise known to those who live there, but not anyone who lives anywhere else in Canada, as the Centre of the Universe)...I'm kidding @talexander, I'm kidding. We're all in this together. Cheers.

8 years ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

Ha ha - I don't know the quantities of malts and blends at the LCBO but we aren't happy about it! Worse than that though are the incredibly high prices...

8 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

Yawn, stretch, frown - "real northerners" drove 400 kilometers in 6 hours through this "Toronto storm" to purchase six choice bottles of whisky and then calmly enjoyed one bourbon, one scotch, one beer :D Good review, it should snow more often!

8 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

I'll take that as a compliment coming from a seasoned "whisky hunter" - I am envious of your recent international success.

8 years ago 0

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