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Monday, March 11, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Out with the old......Johnnie Walker Gold Label

This one is difficult to write.  I'd take a belt of Gold Label if I wasn't at work (trying desperately to sneak out this post).

Gold Label used to be my favorite Johnnie Walker.  I used to recommend to folks that instead of buying Blue Label, one should just get two bottles of Gold (and if there's some money left over get a Green Label too).  Actually, let's take this beyond the Johnnie Walker line.  Gold Label used to be one of my Top Ten whiskies, period.  It was a well-textured, honeyed, lightly sweet, graceful whisky -- mostly thanks to the 18 year old Clynelish within.

When I'd started this site's whisky reports, I couldn't wait to get to Gold Label.  It had been a few years (approximately 2008) since I'd finished my last bottle but I was willing to wait until the right time.  Then I saw that Diageo was retiring Gold, replacing it with Platinum Label.  As some of my readers know, that made me mad (in two parts).  So, in early December of last year, when Costco was selling Gold Label for a ridiculous $55, I picked up a bottle for a last hurrah.

But to my increasing dismay, I discovered Diageo removed the hurrah from the blend.

Ownership: Diageo
Distilleries: Many, including Clynelish and Cardhu
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: at least 18 years
Blend: single malts and grain whiskies
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill-filtered? Yes
Caramel Coloring? Yes
Bottle Code: L2257DM000 / 08131509
Bottled: September 2012

I'd originally opened my bottle when I was with my brother in Vegas.  After finding the whisky oddly uninspired, I decided to leave the bottle alone to see if three weeks of half whisky / half oxygen would help it out.  It didn't, even after an hour in the glass.

Color -- Dark gold
Nose -- Pretty muted. Some fresh apples, sherried butterscotch, smoked lemon peel, vanilla.  A citrus note develops more over time.
Texture -- Watery
Palate -- Lots of grains, caramel sauce, distant wood smoke but not much of it, orange zest, honey, and lemon pepper.  Again, more time, more citrus.
Finish -- Brief. Vanilla, honey, a little citrus. That's all.

If I'd tried this blindfolded and was told it was a single grain whisky, I wouldn't have questioned it.  I take no issue with well-aged grain whisky, but Gold Label isn't grain whisky.  There's supposed to be some malt in there.  Perhaps the blend used to be 40% malt?  Is it possible that it now has 20% malt?

I found it odd when the official Johnnie Walker site and official tasting videos started recommending keeping one's bottle of Gold Label in the freezer, as of two years ago.  That's the sort of advice usually given for vodka, which is made entirely from grains in a continuous still......similar to grain whisky distillate.  Freezing booze thickens a thin liquor and helps blanket over rough edges by numbing the drinker's tastebuds.  There was no need for that with the Gold Label I used to enjoy.  But now, I'm half ready to throw my bottle in the freezer.

This bottle was filled in September 2012, several months after Diageo had announced the Gold's demise.  Could this have been the last of it?  Could they have sold Costco the dregs?  Were they trying to stretch that 18 year old malt as far as it would go so that they could fulfill final distribution agreements?  No matter what was done, this parting was made easier.

All that is Gold does not glitter.

Availability - Gradually decreasing, but still at all or most liquor specialists
Pricing - $70 at the lower end to $100 courtesy of the price gougers
Rating - 78