When I first started to get into whisk(e)y, there were several names that I began to start seeing regularly on the shelves of pubs and bars all around the UK, and they all began with “J”: Jack Daniel, John Jameson and Johnnie Walker. Since developing a taste for them, I have started to make my way through their hierarchy and begin to understand what the labels on the bottles particularly meant – the “label” being the more operative word when it comes to Johnnie Walker. Like some form of boozy karate, I’ve progressed through the kyus and dans of Johnnie Walker via red, black, double black, green, gold and, now, platinum [ed: the blue label has evaded me to date, but maybe one day! Maybe.]
Since its initial release as the “platinum label” the branding team at Diageo have relabelled the whisky as simply Johnnie Walker – Aged 18 Years but it remains the same product inside – a blend of 18 different whiskies from around their portfolio of Scotch whisky distilleries, including malts from Auchriosk, Blair Athol, Cardhu, Glen Elgin and grains from Cameronbridge, amongst others, all of which at the age of 18 years old or above, and are bottled at a strength of 40% ABV.
Such a rich and velvety caramel nose in the first instance, followed by a vanilla burst that, combined, remind me of a country fudge piece. At the tail end of it there’s that classic Johnnie Walker pinch of smoke, ticking the final flavour profile checkbox.
Soooooo soft and silky on the palate, and it continues to deliver the nose’s sweet, caramel flavours – like a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Caramel (I don’t think the bunny features on them anymore?). Amongst all the sweet unctuousness comes a little crisp apple flavour but it’s soon covered back in toffee.
That lovely little bit of smoke re-appears here, but a few little additional flavours stay to play here, including some odd little herby flavours like sage. As it slips down the throat it leaves a super soft coating texture – like a vanilla ice cream – but rather than chilling the body it warms the chest up good and proper.
This feels like quite the treat. It gently releases a collection of delicate flavours to deliver something that is a very simple smooth sipper. It seems to deliver a quality and class that befits the platinum title and delivers a classically “smooth” whisky if that’s what you’re into. It feels expensive but without all of the edgier qualities that a single malt would deliver. Speaking of malts, I would hope that there is also a drop of Clynelish within the mixture too, as that was where I got to taste this blend, within the distillery’s own tasting room. On numerous occasions with the WU team, we have spoken at length that distilleries often seem to miss the trick that whisky enthusiasts love to try and sample many different whiskies. Sure, a lot of places offer a little bit of try-before-you-buy, but we think that a lot of people would be willing to pay for a measure or more of this and that from a broader range of whiskies yet a lot of places do not seem to sell anything other than full bottles. [ed: This was on the return leg from the recent WU trip to Orkney, where we took the opportunity to drop into the Clynelish distillery, have a bit of glance at the ongoing Brora rebuild on the site, and try some of Diageo‘s fayre – well worth the visit!]