Friday, November 16, 2007
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yo (1970s)
Blended Scotch Whisky
Here we are... finally. Sorry for the delay in posting, I swear it was not some ploy to build suspense or something stupid like that. I appreciate all your texts and emails and comments on the blog in anticipation. Especially those that were (playfully?) rude. I simply haven't had much time in front of my computer since Wednesday. Long days and nights. But it's the weekend and it's Malt Mission #200... WOO HOO!!!!! Thanks for reading. We will take a week off from the daily mission in celebration with posts on other topics, top whisky picks, whisky choices for Xmas, complaints and rants, questions answered, etc. Then we'll get right back to it. Lots of treats still on the shelf. Thanks to everyone for their support.
So Johnnie Walker Black. This mission started back in January with a contemporary bottling of Johnnie Walker Black Label (Malt Mission #1). We have been through 3 bottles since. Yup. We likey. This version is from the 1970s, when the words 'black label' first appeared on a bottle of Johnnie Walker. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, I really must explain why this drop ended up being Malt Mission #200. It was going to be a 40yo Balblair which was well suited for the cigar theme of the week (and has just had its price jacked by £100) until Tuesday night...
As readers of this blog will know, over the past few days I had a mate visiting from Finland. The poor guy recently had his heart broken so it must be said that we spent many hours putting it back together in anyway we know how. It involved a lot of talking, a lot of walking, and, naturally, some beer and whisky.
After a whisky tasting I hosted at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (where we enjoyed...um, a few malts) Tommi and I headed to the Auld Shillelagh, a gem of an Irish pub in Stoke Newington where they pour the best pint of Guinness in North London. After a few pints and much good conversation with the barman and surrounding folks we noticed an old bottle of Buchanan's Black & White blended whisky behind the bar. "Where did you get that?" He said he had inherited several old malts from a friend who's father (? grandfather?) had passed away. Turns out he had an old JWBlack hidden behind the bar too. We had to have some. And we did. We were happy chappys. It was fantastic... and he charged us 2.50 per dram. Wikkid. Upon closing, he was civilised enough to send us home with a small water bottle filled with enough spirit to taste under more controlled circumstances for Malt Mission #200. And here we are.
In 1870 Alexander Walker introduced the trademark square bottle with a label at an angle. This is easily on of the most recognisable bottles in the world. 1870! This is 24 years before Coca Cola created theirs. The coloured labels were introduced in 1909 changing the names of Old Highland to White label, Special Old Highland to Red Label, and Extra Special Old Highland to Black Label. Johnnie Walker White Label was dropped during WWI but the other two have survived until today (and have been joined by a few other colour classes, Swings, etc.)
For other Johnnie Walkers had on the mission and more JW info click HERE. "Tell them that 5 bottles of Johnnie Walker are sold every second," begs Kristin...
* price based on recent auctions and THIS
Rich and weighty, with a pleasant sherry influence. Deep and wonderfully complex. Shoe polish, leather. Rotting vegetables in the fridge drawer, decomposition. Slightly sour with cream cheese, custard, Clearasil, cake/bakery with a good smokiness and some pepper in there, too. Toffee and croissants. Sweet and rich, with some signs that a) we were a bit drunk last night and b) this may have been open a while.
Toasty and creamy with heavily honeyed sherried tones. Apple pie, ice cream, caramel, toffee, blueberries, vanilla or milk and honey-scented hand soap. Smoke and sherry intermingle in the finish that grows a bit stale and watery.
It must be acknowledged that some of the flavours detected could be the result of an old bottle being open for an unknown period of time."There are some things that when you smell makes you think its not a good one, but when you taste it, it's a different story," said Tommi. But no matter how much oxidation has occurred, this stuff is very delicious and smells completely different than any whisky I have ever had. I have had old JWBlacks before and the core of this was the same, although some of the pieces had decomposed, so to speak. Lacks the grainy vanilla notes that the contemporary JWBlack has, but the grain makes its presence known, especially on the nose, with margarine and corny-type aromas. Again, in the finish, aged grain can be detected. It is a deep-filled sandwich of a whisky, a wonderful mix of flavours with a great mouthfeel and chewy finish. To think that this stuff was available for + or - £15 makes me want to give up buying new whiskies, esp the overpriced juvenile malts that are becoming more prominent today, and start an apple juice tasting blog.
When I drink something like this I cannot help but be concerned that the changes in whisky production over the past 30 years have had a negative impact on the flavour of Scottish whisky available today. What will it hold for the future? I know many whisky writers have been vocal about this trend, especially Charlie Maclean who has had his nose in glasses of whisky since long before my folks ever met, let alone thought of making a little Sammy, and I assure you it is not just nostalgia for the way things were. It is a reality. That being said, in many ways we are entering a new era of whisky with new grains and barley strains, maturation techniques and casks, new yeasts, and new markets. So please, raise a glass with me: Here is to the future of full-flavoured and affordable scotch whisky. And, of course, here's to 200 more Malt Missions. Have a good weekend.
Malt Mission #196
Malt Mission #197
Malt Mission #198
Malt Mission #199
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