Johnnie Walker

Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen

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Last year, Johnnie Walker launched what turned out to be one of my favorite whiskies of 2017 – the Blue Label Ghost and Rare series. The introductory blend was built around Brora, a distillery that closed in the early 1980s.  I loved the whisky so much that, upon tasting and writing my review, immediately bought a bottle.  I probably should have bought two…

For the second edition of Ghost and Rare, Johnnie Walker Master Blender Dr. Jim Beveridge started this blend with malt from another classic distillery – Port Ellen. Beveridge also used grain whiskies from the closed distilleries Caledonian and Carsebridge.  The three whiskies comprise the “ghost” portion here.  Additionally, rare malts from Mortlach, Dailuanie, Cragganmore, Blair Athol, and Oban are included.

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Though there’s no age statement on the label, press materials state all whiskies used in this blend are at least 20 years old.  The whole thing’s bottled at 43% abv and available for a suggested retail price of $349.99, which is less expensive than the first release.

The nose is rich and full of stewed orchard fruit, tropical fruit, and brine alongside some salted caramel and fresh herbs. This whiskey is velvety and a bit oily on the tongue. More salted caramel on entry, with sweet smoke and spice building. Fresh and candied fruit give way to a sprinkling of herbs, minerals, and tobacco leaf. The long finish sees grilled pineapples and seaweed.IMG_4014-2.jpgTalk about an enjoyable pour! Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Port Ellen sort of reminds me of a fruitier version of John Walker King George V. It starts off sweet and becomes less so as the whisky swirls around the palate. Great development of flavors and complexity. The Port Ellen in the blend stands, adding its signature smoke and maritime notes. The old grain whiskies add a sturdy background, allowing the malt whiskies to shine.  Again, a delicious and intriguing blend from the House of Walker. Highly recommended! 9/10

Johnniewalker.com

Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: John Walker & Sons King George V Scotch Whisky

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This past November, I left my job of nearly nine years for a promotion at the competition.  Scandalous!  The night I accepted my new position, I celebrated by opening my bottle of John Walker & Sons King George V.  Notice it’s not Johnnie Walker.  I guess once it surpasses a certain price threshold, Johnnie becomes a more formal John.  King George V costs around $600, though I’ve the price as high as $800.

John Walker & Sons King George V is part of John Walker & Sons Exclusive Blends, which also includes Odyssey, The John Walker, and the annual Private Collection.  The whisky commemorates the Royal Warrant awarded by the late British monarch.  According to the brand’s website, the blended whisky only uses whiskies from distilleries that were in operation during George’s reign (1910 – 1936) and blended to “reflect the distinctive Johnnie Walker style of the era.”  That includes Port Ellen, among many others.

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The nose features hints of stewed fruit, toffee, wood smoke, and a light touch of earthy peat.  Bittersweet dark chocolate and peanut brittle hit the palate first. A bed of light smoke complements rich notes of honey, figs and blackberry jam.  Hints of spice and leather appear on the back end and into the long, slightly smoky finish.

I like Johnnie Walker whiskies, but I love when they are bottled at more than 40% ABV.  King George V is slightly higher at 43% ABV.  A little alcohol can go a long way in terms of flavor and mouthfeel.  King George V turned out to be a superb choice for a celebratory pour of whisky.  Because of its high price, this whisky won’t be poured a lot at my house.  I say that, but a third of the bottle is already gone.  This luscious whisky will most certainly be replaced by another once the bottle is empty. 9/10

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Whisky Review

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Photo courtesy: Diageo

In a move likely to enrage malt snobs, spirits giant Diageo has introduced an extension to the Johnnie Walker brand comprised primarily of malt and grain whiskies from closed distilleries. Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare, the first in the new series, was created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge.

Ghost and Rare is a blend of eight malt and grain whiskies: Brora, Cambus, Pittyvaich, Clynelish, Royal Lochnagar, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie, and Cameronbridge. The first three distilleries on that list are closed, though Diageo recently announced that Brora will reopen in three years. Official bottlings of Brora, which was closed in 1983, aren’t exactly budget friendly. So, the chance to taste it and other rare whiskies as a blended whisky versus a single malt or single grain at a fair price peaked my interest. Ghost and Rare is bottled at a hearty 46% ABV and priced at $399.99 a bottle.

The waxy fruit character Brora is known for is found in the nose here, along with hints of dark chocolate, creamy vanilla, toasted almonds, and a touch of witch hazel. Ghost and Rare carries a rich mouhfeel with notes of brioche, waxy fruit (apple and pear), and grilled pineapple. Darker and deeper flavors soon develop: dark toffee, Sumatra coffee bean, and subtle smoke. Mild oak tannins appear on the back palate. The long, slightly sweet and smoky finish features hints of cocoa powder and creamy vanilla.

Ghost and Rare is a blend that delivers the characteristics of Brora in a rounded way, thanks to the addition of other malt whiskies. Those same whiskies add nuance. In addition, grain whiskies contribute to the overall richness of the blend. The result is an exquisite addition to the Johnnie Walker lineup. I’ll certainly be looking for a bottle. Highly recommended! 9/10

Johnniewalker.com

Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.