Johnnie Walker Blue Label

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This as you can see right here, is the iconic Johnnie Walker Blue Label, the 4.5L cannon version. However, what we tried today isn’t current. This version of the JW Blue is quite old, but it is still very, very good. The JW Blue Label is the premium, top-of-the-line offering by Johnnie Walker, however it is a NAS. (No age statement)

A little bit about NAS. Quite controversial as traditionally, scotch is sold according to how old is. Example being the 12, 15, 18 and 21. But, that does not mean all NAS whiskies are bad. NAS whiskies allows the master blender more freedom to achieve consistency and quality in order to get the same product every single time a la Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Sometimes, it can be even better than the equivalent 12 or 15. (Hakushu Master Distiller’s Edition is better than 12, my personal opinion) . However, do be cautious as nowadays many distilleries are churning out NAS whiskies to sell more as they do not have stock to keep up with the demand of their traditional age statement whiskies thus not all are as great and consistent as the venerable Blue Label.

Johnnie Walker claims their Blue Label is the smoothest blended whisky ever made. Using a recipe dating back to the 19th Century and utilizing rare casks from distilleries, current and past (only 1 in 10000 casks makes the cut). We should find out if it really is the legend of a whisky (blended).

Credits to my friend, Benedict who supplied this bottle while at his place. Do admire the collection behind this bottle, for there are numerous cognacs and whiskies which I will hopefully get to drink someday. Sigh, my first world problems.

Now, to the tasting!

Appearance: Golden amber liquid. Oily, thick and viscous. Coats the glass thoroughly.

Nose: Huge initial burst of vanilla, oak and some smoke. Creamy and Buttery. Wild Floral Honey and Orange Marmalade. A final touch of smokey peat and it ends.

Mouth: Smooth. Very smooth. I can imagine why people would down this willingly in the club. Can I fault it for being too smooth? Honey followed by light floral undertones, and a slight sherried sweetness. A touch of chewy toffee and raisins. Eases subtlety to reveal an enjoyable smoke and peat background. Conceived with balance and executed perfectly.

TL:DR, A really really smooth and very enjoyable whisky. The focus of it is still on the smoothness and drink-ability. Not the complexity or layers of flavors, but it has enough to keep you more than satisfied. A 85/100 because of how it is simply enjoyable. No fuss at all. Price-wise, you’ll have to decide for yourself, a decent 1.0L bottle goes for $237 in Changi DFS.

Cheers!

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Dalwhinnie 15

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The Dalwhinnie 15. Dalwhinnie distillery has the highest elevation of any distillery in Scotland. Situated 354m above sea level in an area where the average temperature does not pass 16 C and -2 C. It is owned by beverage giant, Diageo and marketed as part of the Classic Malts range. It is known as the Gentle Dram and rightfully so. A Highland malt with a Lowland personality and a touch of Islay. It uses the local spring water during the making of the whisky but does not process its own malt.

I bought this in Changi DFS back from my trip to Bali for a whooping SGD$91.40. I had a hard time choosing between Dalwhinnie 15 and the Scapa 16. The Scapa and Oban, in its slick looking hard tin packaging was right there staring me in the eye to buy it back rather than the Dalwhinnie 15 in its cruddy old box. The box still disturbs me to this day when I hold it and goes soft and flaplike a cardboard box in the monsoon season. When I returned home, I downed a glass of my sad, sad purchase alongside a Stella Artois before crashing in for the night. Luckily, it did not turn out to be as bad as I’d imagined when I revisited it again with Jo. Though the box…that box… Let’s move on.

I personally prefer Lowland malts as they bring a crisp and refreshing palate. Most of the common aromas associated with the Lowlands are fresh cut grass, meadows of heather or flowers and fruit orchards. The sweetness is something else. Not so cloyingly sweet as a sherry-cask matured whisky but good enough to satisfy the sweet tooth, somewhat like the honey aloe-vera liang-teh . Its like stepping into the countryside without the travelling and getting to sample all the fine fruits in the orchards. Another really good example is the Glenkinichie 12 which I will touch upon another day.

Now, to the tasting!

Appearance: Light Golden, similar to Hay. Quite thick and clings but returns quickly.

Nose: Mainly Honey, a Tinge of Oak, Very Aromatic and Creamy. Heather is very prominent. Floods your senses with them fruity smelling benzenes. Reveals raisins, nectarines and apricots. Some custard, caramel and ends with some smoke.

Mouth: Long initial. Creamy Honey and Heather. Like drinking thick nectar with a nutty touch of hazelnuts or walnuts.  Moves quickly to the fruits ( I am guessing nectarines and apricots), vanilla and a spicy touch of cardamoms. Ends long in smoke, heather and some spice.

TL:DR, A fine whisky. To me, this is an 8.5/10. Sweet and approachable. Does not rush you and ends well. A whisky for Lowland lovers who likes the occasional peat and an excellent introductory single-malt to people used to drinking only blends. You should buy this if you want to experience a Highland malt with a Lowland character that comes with enough peat to keep you satisfied.

Cheers!

Whisky 101:What is whisky/whiskey?

In our first blog post, Chris and I would like to first explore the world of whisky/whiskey with our Kakis. But before we delve into that, please bear with us as we tell you our back-story. For the few twenty or so years of our lives, we only knew whisky encompassed Chivas and Johnnie Walker. Vodka was the staple when we were younger as it was cheap, easy to get and very easy to mix with other beverages.

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Ahhhh, yes! A bottle of good ol’ Johnnie hits the spot

One day, we decided that enough was enough, it was like eating the same economical beehoon for the past twenty years, some how or another, something has gotta give. We then went online to find out more about what whisky was and we were amazed by how much we were missing out on. And thus everything else was history.

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Kinda like how this guy felt

What then is whisky/whiskey? And why the difference in the spelling? Whisky(ey) however it is spelled is basically a distilled spirit. There is a whole long process on how grains such as barley, wheat, corn or whatever is turned into the magically intoxicating stuff that we consume but that’s for another day. I’ll distill (pun intended) how this process takes place- 1) water + grain + cooking = wort (kinda like porridge) 2) wort + yeast + fermentation = weak alcoholic gunk / beer 3) weak alcoholic gunk + distillation = strong white spirit / moonshine 4) strong white spirit + barrels + time = magical brown liquid / whisky

Kinda cheem if you ask me, but heck! A picture is worth a thousand words!

Kinda cheem if you ask me, but heck! A picture is worth a thousand words!

In the past, the brown stuff that we now come to love was called “Uisge Beatha” or water of life by the Scots and Irish. Legend has it that the first drop of whisky was produced by monks who then spread it around the British Isles when they became missionaries. Scotch or scotch whisky is rightly named so because whisky making and drinking has long been associated with the Scottish people.

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The monks sure know their stuff

Now, about the spelling. Whisky and whiskey are just about the same brown stuff people drink. The Scots, Canadians and Japanese prefer whisky without the “e” in the middle while the Americans and Irish stick to their ee’s. But besides the spelling, you might have heard about the terms, “blended” and “Single-malts” when used with whisky. Single-malts are whisky which only come from a single distillery in Scotland that uses only malt (germinated barley) in making their whisky. Much like how some wine are labelled as single-estate, similarly you can be sure that a single-malt whisky comes ONLY from that particular distillery made using ONLY pure malt. Of the single-malt whiskies that most Singaporeans should know, Macallan and Glenfiddich should be most familiar to everyone.

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The famous Indian distillery from Bangalore, Amrut

Blended whisky on the other hand are like a Pandora’s box. Blends like Chivas and Johnnie Walker may contain 50 or more different whiskies from different distilleries which you will never know. Also, a high proportion of that blend will come from grain whiskies which are not made from barley but instead come from wheat, corn, rye and many others. That is not to say a blended product is inferior to a single-malt. In fact, blending is an art as the master blender must be really skilled to take 50 different components and marry them to produce a consistent product every single time.

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You’ll never fail to find this at Changi DFS

Then there are also “blended malt whisky” or “vatted malts” which involves blending different single-malt whiskies without the addition of any grain whisky. If you come across “pure malts” like Nikka Taketsuru, Johnnie Walker Green Label and Monkey Shoulder, these whiskies are also considered blended malt or vatted malt whiskies.

Did you know? Johnnie Walker Green Label is a  blended malt

Did you know? Johnnie Walker Green Label is a blended malt

With that in mind, the next time someone hands you a bottle of whisky, I’m sure you’d be able to read the label and tell him/her exactly what kind of whisky it is. I hope you have enjoyed reading our first post. Keep on drinking. Cheers!