Johnnie Walker Green Label

A special anniversary requires a special gift. The anniversary in question was our 15 years of marriage, the gift was a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label. The Green Label is symbolic as it is a mixture of some fine whiskies with a minimum age of 15 years. But unlike the other whiskies in the Johnnie Walker range, the Green Label is a blended malt whisky. No grain whisky is blended into the carefully selected mix of malts used in its preparation. The box indicates that the Green Label is a mix of Talisker’s The Power, Linkwood’s The Finesse, Cragganmore’s The Heart, and Caol Ila’s The Mystery. The blend is bottled at 43% alcohol and is quite elegantly packaged ina deep green box with matching label.

Visually, the whisky is a smooth amber colour, not very deep but not pale either; somewhere between the Black Label and Gold Label.

On the nose, one finds cinnamon and black pepper with a hint of honey, fruits, and floral bouquet.

The palate is smooth and rich. There is a strong oak presence which combines with spices, a touch of peat, and a subtle sweetness that eases into dried fruit as one continues drinking.

The finish is not overly long but satisfying. Pepper lingers and hints of the dried fruit persist in the background.

A few drops of water creates a more vivid experience as the sweetness is enhanced. The pepper on the finish becomes more pronounced as well.

Overall, an excellent choice for a special occasion and a very thoughtful gift from my wife. This whisky was discontinued in 2013 but recently made a return to store shelves. It can be had for about $80 in Quebec and Ontario at the SAQ and LCBO respectively and US $55 in New Hampshire.

Cutty Sark 25

Time for another tasting. I will be trying a blended whisky this time around and a brand one that is well know among those who appreciate blends. Cutty Sark 25 appears to be the high end of the range of products branded as Cutty Sark and produced by the Edrington Group. I have seen the non-age expression at the SAQ in Quebec as well as the 12-year-old. There exist 15 and 18 years old versions as well. My interest in this particular version of Cutty Sark was propelled by the scarcity of its supply, the age of the single malts used in the blend, and an interesting price point from Ontario’s LCBO. At the time if the purchase, only 4 bottles were available in Ontario and none in Quebec or anywhere else reasonably close by.

Some history would be appropriate. The name comes from a famous Scottish clipper ship and its image is displayed on all bottles of Cutty Sark. Cutty Sark’s genesis is a result the light whisky craze in the United States during prohibition. In order to capitalize from the interest in this sort of whisky, the brand’s owners (Berry Brothers & Rudd) commissioned this blend. It was quite popular at the time. The Cutty Sark 25 was introduced in the late 1990s and earned an award for best blended Scotch by Whisky Magazine in 2003.

The blend is made up of several of Edrington’s classic single malts, such as Macallan and Glenrothes. There are more than 20 single malts involved in the blend, many of which are from Speyside. The single malts are ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask matured, a sizable portion of which are first fill casks. The single malts are married in oak casks in order to mature further and provide Cutty Sark’s signature characteristics. Recently, a Tam O’Shanter version of the 25-year-old was released. This 2012 release release is said to introduce peat to the regular version.

The box is quite a visual treat itself. It opens on both sides to reveal the bottle nestled in a royal purple silk-like lining. It is quite large, unfortunately taking up a disproportionate amount of space in my cabinet.Cutty Sark Bottle

This acquisition came about thanks to a friend who was heading to Toronto for the holidays. Upon hearing of my interest in this blend, word quickly spread to Toronto and the trigger was pulled on the purchase…without my knowledge. That said, I cannot complain that folks attribute great import to my cause and take measures to ensure that my whims and fancy are satisfied for all things whisky.

Now then to the tasting!

The colour is deep gold with some thick, slow running legs. This deeper colour is quite unlike younger versions of the product that I have seen but not yet tasted. My introduction to this brand will be from the top of the range.

The product is bottled at 45.7% abv.

The nose offers orange and spice, a bit of jasmine and a hint of coffee. Some sherry is hinted at and a bit of fruitcake mixes in to provide a rather unique aroma.

The palate is mellow. Spices abound, black pepper comes up first. There is some smoke and dried fruit in there but this is a spicy whisky more than anything else.

The finish is long and full of oak and spice. Fruit comes back and it goes sweet at the top, but the lingering impression remains with the oak and spices.

Adding water opens up the nose significantly. Whereas I struggled to pull out the fruitcake earlier, it now comes through clearly. Additionally, oak is available now on the nose.

The palate too opens up quite a bit. Sherry, ripe fruit, a hint of caramel, and toffee make it to the forefront. The spice remains but is no longer the focus on the palate.

The finish becomes sweeter and richer. Much more complex and satisfying than earlier.

This is a whisky that benefits enormously from the addition of a good dose of water, but mind your proportion or risk watering it down too much. I added about 10 drops to a little more than half an ounce of drink. The water turns a mid-level blend into a higher end product and seems to be produced to deliver this effect. In fact, the bottle itself recommends adding a measure of water.

Overall, a fine dram and one that is worth checking out. Just don’t forget the water or your experience will leave you wondering what the fuss is about.


Cutty Sark 25 box

Johnnie Walker Gold Label

To celebrate Johnnie Walker’s 100th year, the family produced a top notch blend which is the subject of today’s tasting. A multitude of whiskies are blended to produce one of the market’s more premium blends, Johnnie Walker Gold Label. This blend is labelled at 18 years, meaning the youngest of the whiskies blended into the final product was aged 18 years, though a good portion of the whiskies used are probably considerably older. I’m not quite sure which whiskies are used in the blend, but Johnnie Walker mentions that the distinctive single malt produced by Clynelish is one of them. Interestingly enough, blended Scotch was illegal for quite some time, and it was only in the 1860s that Johnnie Walker started to produced blends more vigorously.

The Gold Label, like the Red Label and the Black Label, is bottled at 40% abv. Most blends are consumed in mixes drinks, but I’ll be hard pressed to recommend that you mix Johnnie Walker Gold 18 with anything but a little bit of water. The quality of the whiskies involved is just to great to be diluted and lost in glass of ginger ale. This tasting will consist of a glass of Gold Label already seasoned with a few drops lf water and chilled in the freezer for a few minutes as recommended by Johnnie Walker. Let’s see how that works out.

The colour is tantalizing with golden hues that match the label and box perfectly. The legs run thick and slow, though that may have something to do with the temperature at which it is served.

The nose brings on honey at first and most prominently. Fruit and manzanilla cherry can be whiffed on subsequent takes. There’s an impression of smoke somewhere in the background that drives all the other scents.

On the palate, the whisky must be allowed to warm and release its flavour. A rich texture, somewhat oily coats the tongue and whispers of wood, smoke, honey, and fruit. This is a sweet whisky and the flavours are not what one could call intense.

The finish is smooth and long. It is a soft and satisfying mix of sweet fruit, mainly honeydew melon, smoke, wood, and vanilla at the very end.

Overall, a wonderfully light and easy drinking spirit that is flexible.  It’s only weakness is that is lacks some depth and complexity.  The flavours are light and fruity and quite enjoyable, but it lacks the extra layers of depth that for me help a fine whisky stand out from the crowd.

I would like to point out that you shouldn’t confuse this for the new Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, which has no age statement and is a different product altogether.  Gold Label 18 can be purchased at the SAQ for approximately $86.  It is surprisingly unavailable in Ontario and, insane as it may seem, is actually more expensive in New Hampshire!!


Compass Box Great King Street

A trip to Ottawa yielded few spoils, however it allowed me to continue my discovery of Compass Box’s wonderful blends. Compass Box products are hard to find and overpriced in Quebec, but they appear abundant in both quantity and variety in Ontario and much more reasonable in price. The Great King Street blend is bottled at 43% abv and references the building in Edinburgh housing Compass Box.

I happened upon this product while looking for a bottle of the Oak Cross, another reputed offering from Compass Box and bought it over the slightly pricier Oak Cross.

The colour is quite light, amber in hue but looking a bit watery. Quick running, thin legs are apparent when swirled in the glass.

On the nose, it is very soft. Some orange and almond are readily apparent. Apple and vanilla with a hint of pie crust round out the introduction.

On the palate, it’s mostly vanilla. There’s some apple and citrus for good measure. Concentrate slightly and you will catch the light spices and pepper that end up making this whisky stand out from the crowd of blended products in this price range. The palate is soft overall though, making for an extremely drinkable and flexible whisky. This whisky could well be served as an aperitif or accompany an assortment of meals.

The finish is not long, but it’s not short either. It’s full of vanilla and citrus. Some hints of fruity sweetness remain in the background and keep the vanilla from dominating. The very end is honey and sugar.

Overall, a wonderful whisky for seasoned veterans and occasional drinkers alike. It’s great for guests and a suitable party whisky.  Compass Box suggests using it as an ingredient in mixed drinks as well.  I prefer my whisky neat, but probably worth a try to find out how those vanilla notes affect the finished product.  Try to get your hands on this one, it will leave you wanting more. So far I have only seen it in Ontario and at under $50, it’s a reasonably priced whisky and enjoyable under any circumstance.


Chivas Regal 12

A cool, late summer’s night brings about thoughts of keeping warm. What better way to do so than with a nice glass of Scotch! The drink of the hour is Chivas Regal 12, the base of the Chivas line of blended whiskies. This whisky is a blend of malt and grain. Interesting,y, the bottle has a machine printed date on it, indicating that it was bottled on September 11, 2007. This is a popular whisky and competes against Johnny Walker for the hearts and minds of blended whisky lovers.

The colour is light gold, not very striking in the glass but looks alone aren’t all that important. Let me point out here that given its alcohol content of 40% abv, I decided on adding a few drops right off the top and tasting it with water only.

On the nose, it’s a big citrus fest. Orange peel, clementine, tangerine, and grapefruit zest along with oak attack the olfactory system. What a pleasant introduction! This is a whisky that’s worth appreciating on the nose before every sip.

The palate is interesting for being subtle and smooth. Where the nose hit hard, the palate is caressed. The notes of honey and oak are massaged into the tongue. It’s very light, somewhat watery even. It goes down easy, but feels a bit uneven. The wood and the honey, sometimes coming across as fruit, don’t seem to be in harmony but rather struggling to take their place. Is there some butterscotch in there? Maybe, but not strong enough to make a lasting impression. I don’t mean to say it’s not a good whisky, and most people will prefer the smooth and simple nature of this expression.

The finish is short and woody at first, turns sweet as it fades away. The memory of the finish will be of its sweetness, almost like a Toblerone.

So there you have it, a good whisky and perfect for everyday drinking amongst mixed company. The next level up, the 18, should be a good point to determine how the blenders have improved on their base label. I may try it some day and let you know.


Compass Box The Peat Monster

A recent addition to my collection, The Peat Monster by Compass Box is yet another blend from this fine company. Having greatly enjoyed The Spice Tree, my first exposure to this blender, I hope to try all their bottlings in due time. Compass Box states that this is a balanced whisky, using Islay and Speyside single malts to produce a finely tuned whisky for peat lovers. The whisky is aged in first fill and refill American oak.

The whisky is light in colour, amber hue. The legs of this 46% alcohol by volume whisky run thick and slow.

On the nose, surprisingly peaty. OK, not surprisingly…the thing is called Peat Monster after all. Though the peat overwhelms, there is some sweetness to the aroma, hinting of raisin and dried fruit along with the faintest whisper of rose petal.

On the palate, peat and smoke, smoke and peat, peat, then some more smoke. Oak and nut some raisin and a hint of honey. Chewy texture.

The finish is long and satisfying. Oak, smoke, peat, a bit of spice and black pepper.

Some water brings out some more fruit on the nose. The palate becomes richer, deeper, more complex. The spice in the finish from my initial tasting comes through on the palate. The fruitiness is entwined with the peat. But make no mistake, it remains monstrously peaty and smokey. The finish continues to be strongly peated and smokey.

This is a deep, rich whisky. Complex and finely blended, perfect for a cool, rainy evening. This whisky has won a few awards, including s gold medal in 2006 at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. You can find this in at the SAQ in Quebec, but you’ll have to do some searching. It’s also about $71 vs $60 in Ontario where it is widely available.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy peat and smoke in their whiskies, otherwise you may wish to pass on this one.


Johnnie Walker Black Label

One of the oldest bottles in my collection, sitting and waiting for a good swig from time to time is also one of my favorites. I’m not sure why the bottle has lasted so long, but I’m glad to have had it available tonight for a tasting.

The Johnnie Walker label has been around since 1820. When you pick up a bottle of Johnnie Walker, note the elements that make it distinct. The square bottle, simple layout, lots of transparent glass through which to see the product, the diagonal label, etc. All of these elements are instantly recognized, making their mark on the consumer and allowing instant brand recognition. Excellent presentation.

Johnnie Walker Black Label is a 12 year old blended Scotch sold at 40% alcohol by volume. The colour a beautiful dark copper, under the right light showing a red tinge.

On the nose, the first thing that strikes is orange and citrus. A second whiff brings in some hints of banana peel. Some smoke works its way in and balances the fruit.

On the palate, fruity and rich. Some honey and a hint of vanilla.

The finish is of short to medium length, fruity at first turning to some wood and smoke and then going off into a honey glaze that lasts for a short while.

Some water opens up more fruit and smoke on the nose. The palate becomes sweeter, the honey notes a bit stronger. Some caramel can be tasted, adding its undercurrent to the entire range of flavours. The water does a fine job extending the finish. I would say this whisky benefits most on the finish from the addition of water. The honey glaze turns into something more like sugar and lingers there for some time.

Overall, a fine whisky and something to consider for an everyday dram. It lacks some of the more complex elements that we’ve seen in my other tastings to date, but is an excellent choice nonetheless. You can’t go wrong with this purchase. All sizes are priced virtually the same in nith Quebec and Ontario, with Ontario charges a hair more. You’ll pay about 40% less in New Hampshire though, setting you back about $36 for the 750ml bottle in that wonderful state.


Compass Box The Spice Tree

My curiosity got the better of me. Despite resisting for about three weeks, I finally folded Spice Tree bottleand picked up a bottle of Compass Box’s The Spice Tree. What drew me to this whisky is its history as well as its unique production process. Compass Box was founded in 2000 and calls itself an artisan Scotch producer. They are involved in looking for new ways of creating flavours in their blends which sometimes gets them into trouble with the Scotch Whisky Association. For instance, The Spice Tree was first introduced in 2005 but was pulled after the Scotch Whisky Association deemed the practice of inserting French oak staves (flat oak barrel inserts) into bourbon casks for the second maturation was unacceptable.

In fall of 2009, Compass Box released a new version of the product. Having changed their approach, they were able to legally market the Spice Tree. Compass Box uses the highest quality wood from old growth French Sessile oak with an average age of 195 years. The wood is then air dried for two years, letting it develop its flavours and character. Most whisky wood is kiln dried. Instead of using French oak staves, Compass Box now incorporates the new French oak at the end of the barrel in the second maturation cycle. The oak is heavily toasted and apparently provides a similar flavour profile as the previous version.

The bottle states that the primary maturation is in a mix first fill and refill American oak and then the French oak from the Vosges forests for 2 years.

The whisky is sold at 46% alcohol by volume as a blended malt from the Highland area, specifically the village of Brora.

The colour is a rich amber and the bottle quite elegant.

The spices abound on the nose. Ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, some sugary sweetness, toasted apple, and hints of wood.

On the palate, much of the same. There is a sweet greeting to the taste, followed by the spices and soft fruit. Apple juice and cinnamon combine with soft wood, nut, and honey tones. Vanilla and almond round it out.

The finish is long and pleasant. The spice, apple, nut, wood, honey, and smoke slowly fade to a sweet fruity note before turning to vanilla that gently goes the distance in providing one of the most pleasant finishes I have yet to experience.

Adding a few drops of water, the nose opens some more honey and the body shows some more of the previous characteristics. It feels warmer on the tongue, but continues to satisfy on all levels.

This is an exceptional find and a great all around whisky. Perfect for a cool, rainy night, Compass Box recommends hard goat cheese and strong cheddar. Around these parts it appears to be quite rare. As of this writing, there were 16 bottles in all of the province of Quebec, 8 in Montreal’s downtown signature store and 8 in Ste-Foy’s signature store. Ontario only has a total of 11 available, 8 at the store in Etobicoke and 3 in London. I’ll note that Ontario sells the product for $9 less than Quebec. I am unsure of availability in the US, but none are to be found in New Hampshire.


Spice Tree box