Posted By Charlie on December 19, 2011
This is the scotch for all whisky reviewers to write about. In the whisky world it seems that if you haven’t written about the Blue Label then you just haven’t written about scotch. I’ve been saving this review so that it could be presented with a perspective; i.e. after I’ve already written numerous other reviews. A discussion of this nature can not just be thrown out there without some perspective.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
The vital stats
Country of origin: Scotland
Region of origin: Various, known to include some Islay
Age: Unstated, but the whisky-world thinks it includes samples as old as 40 years
Proof: 80 (40% ABV)
ScotchInfo.com score: 95/100
Packaging: This is the best non-wood box packaging I have seen yet. From the velvet lining to the novel that comes with the bottle to tell you the history of what you are about to enjoy, this is high-class all the way. The bottle also has a unique blue tinting to it and it is amazingly thick at the bottom; it feels great in your hand. My bottle also came with a little pull string to make removing the cap-lining that much easier. Everything about this bottle and package is high class perfection.
To the eye: Like tarnished brass, the color is on the darker side of yellow/gold but not as amber as scotches aged in sherry casks.
Nose: The first impression when inhaling is how smooth this is on the nose. There is no alcohol burn to speak of and this lets you inhale very deeply to coax out the subtle aromas of golden raisins, dried flowers, and just a weak hint of sea salt. After several sniffs I get something that I can only describe as dusty nutmeg – an old dried spice that is clearly a background aroma.
Palate: Again, this is smooth and that is the immediate reaction to taking a sip. Thus, like the nose, you can let is linger without burn and really enjoy this scotch for all that it has to offer, which sadly is not that much when it comes to complex flavors. There are dried apples and plums mixed with tobacco leaf flavors that give way to brown sugar and then what I can only describe as a chocolate covered raisin, only with a high-quality 95% cacao dark chocolate.
Finish: The finish is of average length and it has a hint of Islay peat smoke this washes away quickly to sweet oolong tea.
Overall: I think the best analogy of this scotch is to a Mercedes. It is expensive, it is of pretty good quality, but you can certainly do better for your money. It is not bad, not by a long shot, but there are better options for cheaper prices. It is also such a well known name that it is itself a status symbol, which is product of some excellent marketing. Driving a Mercedes, sipping some Blue Label, it’s more about the statement about your wealth than it is a statement about your level of class.
If you have more money than brains, go ahead and buy a case. If someone is kind enough to give you a bottle as a gift, thank them greatly. But, don’t feel that you have to run out and spend your hard earned money on a bottle. If you really can’t get it out of your system and you have to see what all of the fuss is about, get a dram at a bar on a special occasion. Only then if you think it is worth it should you buy a bottle.
While I am totally in love with how smooth this scotch is and how absolutely amazing it is to drink, its luxury comes at a price that just doesn’t match to the lack of complexity, and that imbalance is what is this whisky’s downfall. A touch more complexity, then the price is okay. Or knock 30% off the price, and it seems a lot more reasonable for what you get. Either way, at the end of the day, when you’re spending your money, this is not 100% perfection in a glass.
Similar To: This whisky is truly in a class all its own. I’ve been scratching my head to find something comparable. Perhaps Macallan 25 year is a good comparison for the sugary after taste and the overall smoothness, but I actually think JW Black Label is a good comparison of something that errs on the side of less complexity for its flavor. On the nose, JW Gold and Blue are quite similar.
Finding it: Despite its high price this seems to be available nearly everywhere. Bravo, the marketing team at Diageo is earning their keep on this one. I can find this at my local down-the-street liquor store but for some reason I have to drive across town to the larger store to find Laphroaig 18-year.
Who would like it: For a scotch or just a whisky fan, this would be enjoyed by anyone. This is the ultimate gift.
Who wouldn’t like it: If you can’t help but think about the dollars you’ve spent disappearing in front of you as you taste this, then move along as you clearly can’t handle the price to play.
Pairing: I would not recommend that something of this caliber have to fight against any other flavors. Please enjoy this whisky straight out of the bottle without any water or ice and please do not complicate its flavors.
Other comments: Although I knock this for its lack of complexity, don’t assume that it is boring. It is subtle, it is refined, it is smooth, it is darn tasty, and I don’t want something overly complex so if you’re going to make any kind of mistake with a scotch it is better to err on the side of less complex.
What others are saying: Being the scotch to write about, naturally there are plenty of reviews available.
Jason reviewed it not once, but twice and I have to say that his core ideas are very much in line with my observations.