A Trio of Johnnie Walker Blue Label (80’s, 00’s & The Casks Edition)
When I first started drinking whisky, in my mind Johnnie Walkier Blue Label was pretty much the most luxurious whisky I could think of. The best of the best and the coolest whisky out there. I still vividly remember the first time I had the chance to taste it, which was at a festival. It was an experience, although I have to admit that even back then I wasn’t super impressed.
Now that I have a lot more malt mileage under my belt I recognize Johnnie Walker Blue Label for what it is. An average blended whisky priced and presented as a luxury item. Even still, when someone was offering samples of three different Blue Labels I jumped at the opportunity. It’s a brand that still appeals to my imagination. Besides that, it’s always interesting to compare bottlings from different era’s.
So today I review a fairly recent Blue Label bottled in the 00’s and one from the 80’s. The third Blue Label is The Casks Edition, which is bottled at a high strength and was released in 2012.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label (40%, OB, 00’s bottling)
Nose: Pepper and a whiff of copper coins followed by more mellow aromas. Nuts and cereals. Lime and lemon zest with some raisins. Sweet porridge.
Taste: There’s some subtle peat and dark spices (cloves), after which softer fruits appear, tropical in nature like mango. Quite oaky with some white pepper and licorice.
Finish: Fruity with honey and toffee. On the shorter end of the spectrum.
Nothing too special here. I didn’t like the copper, but with time the nose did transform into something more enjoyable. Overall an average whisky.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label (43%, OB, 80’s bottling)
Nose: A bit pedestrian. Some spices, cereals and honey. Stewed apples. Fairly sweet indeed, with a hint of smoke in the background.
Taste: Oaky with lots of tannins, but I don’t mind that. Nice body. A layer of subtle peat. Sweet (honey, vanilla) and spicy (cloves, cinnamon).
Finish: Lingering peat and spices. Medium in length.
Nicely balanced from start to finish. I enjoyed the palate more than I did the nose. Especially the subtle peat was welcomed.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label (55,8%, OB, The Casks Edition)
Nose: Comparable to the regular Blue Label, but everything’s a bit enhanced. Oak-y. Slightly acidic with peanuts and draff followed by orange peel and candied oranges. Pepper and ginger. A tiny bit of smoke. Very mellow nose considering the abv.
Taste: Plenty of oak, a bit harsh maybe. Spicy chili pepper. Chocolate with honey, oranges and vanilla. A thin veil of peat smoke.
Finish: Faint white chocolate, earthy and subtle smoke.
While the nose is very mellow, the palate was a bit too intense for my liking. A pretty good whisky nonetheless, but certainly not good enough to warrant its hefty price tag.
The high strength The Casks Edition is the winner in my book, but I honestly wouldn’t buy any of these. All of ’em are decent whiskies, but none of them are worth their asking price. Johnnie Walker Blue Label is something someone might buy to impress his friends (provided they don’t know much about whisky). But if you’re willing to spend this much on a single bottle of whisky, I’m willing to bet that I can find you something else that you like infinitely better.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.