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I have yet to understand why Swing is the overlooked bastard step-child of the Johnnie Walker range. It’s apparently not worthy of a colour-coded label, and has been reduced to being sold in a gimmicky swinging brandy bottle at travel retail outlets and specialty shops. So is it actually good, or does it deserve this cruel and unusual punishment? Well after the novelty of a pivoting bottle wears off (it takes about 3 seconds), we‘re actually left with quite a fine blend. I’ve come to enjoy this one a lot. The reviewed bottle is the “Swing Superior.” As far as I know it’s the same formula for the standard Swing bottling with an added 3% abv.
Nose: Malt, chocolate, coffee, toffee, apples, oranges, and sherry notes like raisins, spices and caramel. Roses? Yes, definitely a floral/rosey note in here. A pinch of salt. I could forget this was a blend; the grain notes are calm and well integrated. The grainy notes that are detectable work in this whisky’s favour by adding to the earthiness of the nose. When I first bought this I didn’t love it. But several weeks later it’s really opening up. Time in the bottle as well as time in the glass bring new dimensions to this blend.
Palate: A very gentle arrival with a good, medium-thick mouthfeel. Caramel at the fore, with soft waves of indistinct sherry flavours rolling in. Fruity and salty. Raisins, salt, caramel, rich malt, and some very inoffensive and gentle spices.
Finish: As the gentle spices begin to dry a smoky note comes in. It’s very subdued and understated, but at the same time it stays at the core of the finish. Several sherry notes return, and with them a gentle spicy tingle, all under a layer of that soft smoke. The sherry notes fade first, and we’re left with lingering smoke and salt throughout the medium finish.
Although you may have noticed the word “gentle” throughout this review, that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting. It’s as drinkable as many single malts, and I think it demonstrates JW’s ability to offer a range of products. It seems to be the most “Speysidey” Walker I’ve tried. It doesn’t have the striking personality of the Green 15 yo or the velvety texture of the Gold 18 yo, but it’s captured something different; a solid fruity character. Of course moderate smoke and maritime notes are in here too, but it’s the fruity sherry notes, indistinct as they may be, that carry this one. As one would expect with a JW release, it’s well structured with an inoffensive character; but why should that be a bad thing? Good balance, integration, and smoothness are also things to behold.
Personally speaking, though, I don’t love the bottle. I get that they’re alluding to a maritime tradition, but nobody’s drinking this on the high seas during a storm. This is a good product that can stand on its own two feet without the novelty container. I think this deserves a coloured label and a place in the core range, not a gimmicky pivoting bottle.