I must confess, I've only seen one episode of Game of Thrones in my life (the first one). I liked it a lot, but I just haven't had time to bother catching up. But knowing the huge cultural impact the show has had, I was intrigued to hear that Diageo was doing a large cross-promotion as the show nears its final season. Not only have they created this "White Walker" but they are doing versions of their core single malts, branded with different GoT stuff (I don't watch the show so I'm not going to pretend to know what I'm talking about, but apparently White Walkers are nasty bad guys). I don't know if the single malts are coming to the LCBO but this blended scotch has.
The White Walker has a slightly higher ABV (41.7%) and has more emphasis on Cardhu and Clynelish then the usual Johnnies. They say it is best enjoyed neat but straight from the freezer...but is that true, or that just marketing? We'll find out.... Oh, and the bottle is gorgeous with an icy pattern that is rough to the touch, with the Striding Man wearing some GoT-style armour, and if you keep it in the freezer long enough you get blue streaks and the words "Winter Is Here" show up on the bottle. Cute gimmick. Let's see if it transcends the gimmick; we'll put it side-by-side with Johnnie Black, and also try it straight from the freezer.
The colour is a pale gold, with very oily legs in the glass. Quite shy on the nose with rosemary, kumquat, raspberry and mealy overripe apple. Toffee and vanilla extract. This noses very young, closer to Johnnie Red than to Black (and you really get the Cardhu, which I'm not crazy about). Not much oak, unfortunately, and water just creates some astringency. Quite thin and nondescript.
Not much going on with the palate - it's very herbal with hints of vanilla, toffee, light honey and that weird overripe apple. A bit of indeterminate spice, maybe some cayenne? Water adds some more spice and oiliness. A bit more interesting than the nose, but not much.
The finish is almost non-existent! How is that possible? OK maybe a slight hint of pine and spice is left in the mouth....but it's quite short. Well, this is a huge disappointment, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see Diageo mask low-quality spirt with clever marketing. There is no comparison to my beloved Johnnie Black, which is much darker, richer, meatier and remains a top world-class whisky. Straight from the freezer in a frozen tumbler, it's easier to drink but those young, astringent notes remain. I wouldn't serve this to my dragons. Unless you're a Game of Thrones completist, keep your distance.