...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: Johnnie Walker Green Label

On the way to my car this morning, I saw a small black labrador retriever in mid doggie squat desperately trying to do the doo.  He stretched, bounced up and down, angled to get the right leverage in multiple unsuccessful attempts to void his puppy bowels.  No, I didn't stick around to see if he finally pooped because......what do you think I am, some kind of weirdo?

Unlike that excretorily challenged dog, I pass this nugget along to you with great ease and pleasure.

*the king of segues curtsies*

The Personal Classics, Part 3:  Johnnie Walker Green Label

Type: Blended Malt (formerly known as Vatted Malt)
Distilleries: Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood (and likely more)
Age: minimum 15 years
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

On one sunny Saturday in late 2004, my new work buddy, Bernardo, invited Kristen and I (along with a few other co-workers) up to his house in Gaithersburg.  While the ladies were all drinking wine (and/or vodka), Bernardo asked me if I liked Scotch.  I responded enthusiastically in the affirmative.

I did indeed like Scotch.  I didn't really know much about it.  I knew Black Label, Dewars (ugh), the two big Glens.  Had heard of Macallan.  But the obsession hadn't started yet.

Then Bernardo brought out a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label.  My memory is a little fuzzy after that.  I think we drank half the bottle.  It was fan-f***ing-tastic.  Bernardo, Green Label, and I hung out on the back deck for hours.  THIS, this was the gateway drug.  My relationship with whisky would never be the same.

Bernardo was a couple years ahead of me on the whisky track.  In the months that followed I found Macallan and Oban, much thanks to him.

So, three years later, as I moved to the West Coast, I repaid him by leaving him with a box full of half-drunk bottles of Amaretto, Creme de Cacao, and Midori. 

I'm a f***ing a**hole.

The Whisky

A Blended Malt is different than a Blended Whisky.  A Blended Whisky (like Black Label, Dewars, or Black & White) is a mixture of single malt whiskies and grain whiskies, with greater emphasis on the grains.  Blended Malts (once called Vatted Malts) are a combination of only single malt whiskies.  No grain whisky.  That results in a more expensive drink, but also (usually) a whisky of considerable depth and quality.

In Green Label, the Johnnie Walker brand provides rare transparency into its blending recipes.  It lists Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood as "the key components" (but not necessarily the only components).

Per the box:
Talisker (Skye) - The Power - Wood smoke, pepper, oak, and rich fruits
Linkwood (Speyside) - The Finesse - fruit, flowers, and cedar wood
Cragganmore (Speyside) - The Heart - malty, sweet wood smoke, and sandalwood
Caol Ila (Islay) - The Mystery - rich fruit, drying sea salt, and peat smoke

Those little The's are cute and sorta silly.  For "The Mystery", the box says that Caol Ila is Islay's best kept secret.  In reality, Caol Ila produces more whisky than Lagavulin, Bowmore, and Ardbeg combined and is very possibly the distillery with the most independent bottlings in history.  But whisky romance aside, Talisker is a great malt powerhouse.

The Notes

My favorite Johnnie Walker whisky changes all the time.  Black or Green or Gold.  It's difficult to say since I haven't had Gold Label in a few years.  I posted extensively about my hot-cold affair with Black Label.  And Green Label has become a Rorschach test.  I keep tasting different things in it.  The bottle I have now is peatier than any Green I'd had before.  So I've done composite of notes from separate evenings...


The color, a dark caramel amber.  Both sherry and bourbon barrels show up in the nose as well as sweet cream, salt, malt, black pepper, and apple juice.  The texture is soft and creamy.  The palate is led by Talisker's pepper, then some salt and sherry, a little peat smoke, whipped cream, and more apple juice.  Pepper sticks around in the medium length finish along with the cream and malt.

W/ WATER (about 30% ABV)

The nose gets spicier, think cayenne pepper and ginger.  But it's also malty and buttery.  Brown sugar now leads in the palate, along with cherry syrup and lots of black cherry flavouring.  The finish is "Yummy".  Cookies, brown sugar, salt, and cherries.

I'd been having it neat for so long, I was surprised how well it took to water.  As a fifteen-year old whisky, the price is right and the flavor has been created with some skill.  So I recommend it.  Perhaps it will be your path to Whiskimania too.

Availability - Wide
Pricing - Excellent at $50-$55 (if you find it for less, grab it up!)
Rating - 87


  1. The gallimaufry of opened "liqueurs" was just what my bar needed. Thanks again!!

  2. Thank you for being gracious and taking those orphans off my hands. I owe you another drink for accepting an open bottle of Midori and not laughing in my face.