This fairly recent release celebrates the 200th anniversary of John Walker's purchase of a Kilmarnock grocery store in 1820, thus launching one of the most successful alcohol brands in history. It is apparently designed to match Walker's first blend, the ancestor of the current Black Label. Thank you to @fiddich1980 for providing me with this sample.
The colour is a medium gold. On the nose it's rich with marzipan, fruitcake, toasted almonds, clove and lots of oak. Orange pith. Ginger. Mint. Faintest hint of peat. A drop or two of water reveals the malt along with digestive biscuits and a bit more peat. Full of spice and fruit, thick and complex.
Silky smooth on the palate with rum-raisin, dark chocolate, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and more cloves. The peat hides in the background though it occasionally peers out. Quite nutty, and also add all the notes that the nose revealed earlier. Mintier, oily and more tannic with water. The changes with water don't make it better, just different - I prefer it at full 51% strength - but regardless, this is a big, full-bodied whisky.
The finish is long, rich and full of black pepper and charred oak. This is far better than I was expecting, given the reasonable price and relatively wide availability. If this is genuinely closer to what Walker's Old Highland Blend was like in 1865, then wow they really knew how to make great scotch! There are definitely some similarities with the current Black Label, but really it's another beast entirely. Rich, fruity and spicy, this is a great dram and great value for money.