Keep Walking! – A Look at the New Johnnie Walker Labels

The Johnnie Walker line-up is changing this year, with the bowing out of their Green Label and Gold Label, and the introduction of Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve and Johnnie Walker Platinum Label:

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Gold Label Reserve was created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge from handpicked casks to celebrate the art of blending. The Johnnie Walker website describes it as “pure indulgence”.

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Platinum Label, also created by Jim Beveridge, is being marketed towards people who are after something a little bit special to share with friends. All of its constituent whiskies are at least 18 years old and are from limited casks that have been specially kept by.

Despite how exciting these sound, as a particular fan of the original Gold Label (ever since our wonderful Goodwood tasting), I have to admit to being a tad hesitant about such a big change. I had tried small samples at Distil and Imbibe, but couldn’t wait to try them both at home and was particularly relieved when DTS offered to set up a blind tasting for me, so that I could be as fair and unbiased as possible. To make things additionally interesting, he threw in the Green and Black Labels without telling me (it’s a shame that we didn’t have any Gold Label at the time)! Still, a sneaky, if clever, move.

Here are my blind-tasting thoughts.

Green Label
Nose: Syrup and oats, but with a dry finish. Lots of sweet wood, too, reminding me a tad of bourbon.
Taste: Raw, genuine wood and not too much else; quite a short initial flavour, but a very nice one, nonetheless. A good warmth builds up after from alcohol.

Black Label
Nose: Rich, fruity and really syrupy, with hints of plum, raisin and other rich notes that remind me of fruit cake. After a few moments, the sweetness transformed into more of a Christmas-pudding nuttiness.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. There’s a short initial flavour of fruit cake that’s followed by another flavour that develops a lot more slowly, overlaid by a faint smokiness: another genuine woodiness – no gimmicky flavours to mask it here – that you can really chew over.

Gold Label Reserve
Nose: A much stronger nose than the previous two. A combination of light wood, vanilla and a richer, honey sweetness.
Taste: Quite strong alcohol to start, followed by a good woodiness and the faintest hint of smoke. This quickly disperses, leaving a pleasant, medium-long finish that is relatively dry and fruity. Smooth and accessible.

Platinum Label
Nose: Savoury, light wood with oats, like oatcakes, to start. This then turns sweeter, with hints of maple.
Taste: Harsher than the previous ones and distinctly savoury; almost bitter at points. This comes across as not particularly balanced to start, but quickly settles down upon a second sip. There’s definitely some wood notes here, but there’s not so much personality. The finish is dry, reminiscent of sherry and dried fruit.

In Conclusion
The latest additions to the Johnnie Walker range are definitely different to the ones that they’re replacing, so if you are a particular fan of either the Green Label or the Gold Label (“The Centenary Blend”), you’ll want to stock up now. Equally, if you get the chance to try the Gold Reserve or Platinum Labels, I would recommend it; they’re definitely something new, carefully designed for today’s market, and, whilst they weren’t my favourites in this blind tasting, they might be yours!

– Mrs. B

Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve is available for around £42 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Johnnie Walker Platinum is available for around £66 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

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