Magnificently powerful and intense. Caramels, dried peats, elegant cigar smoke, seeds scraped from vanilla beans, brand new pencils, peppercorn, coriander seeds, and star anise make for a deeply satisfying nosing experience. Silky caramels, bountiful fruits of ripe peach, stewed apple, orange pith, and pervasive smoke with elements of burnt tobacco. An abiding finish of smoke, dry spices, and banoffee pie sweetness. Close to perfection. Editor's Choice
Johnnie Walker 48 year old Master of Flavor, 41.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $25,000
Master blender Jim Beveridge’s career finale draws on stocks from seven distilleries, producing a marriage of toffee, marzipan fruit, sweet grain, vanilla, and rich tropical fruits, with the smoke lapping in waves. Remarkably, the grain leads from the front, the flavors gathering momentum, drawing in ever richer notes encompassing soft fruits, sweet smokiness, citrus, lemon peel, and dried fruit, concluding with black fruits and vanilla essence. A work of genius. (288 bottles) Collectibles
Drawn from stocks aged at least 28 years, this magnificent blend begins with aromas of burning heather, toffee, nuts, cigar smoke, leather, raisins, broken orange pekoe tea leaves, fruit loaf, black licorice, allspice, and cinnamon. Truly classic Johnnie Walker with smooth, warming flavors of orange, brown sugar, barley sugar, and gentle harmonious spice, followed by dark toffee, vanilla pod, candied peel, sultana, prune juice, malt, and cocoa.
Formulated to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Johnnie Walker. This is a fabulous whisky for anyone who can spring for the bottle. It is deep, dark, and quite powerful with a hefty malt foundation and sweeter notes of toffee and vanilla combined with resinous oak, complex fruit (both bright citrus notes and darker pit fruits), crisp mint, tobacco, polished leather, and heavy peat smoke. A tour de force of a blended scotch-as big as many single malts reviewed here.
Highland toffee, dried banana, salted caramel, seashells flipped from rock pools, and crispy-skinned oily fish barbecuing over a fire. Sweet toffee meets cinnamon, pepper, and clove, as an express train of smoke clatters through, leaving intense citrus peel oils and green fruits in the backwash. A spasm of spice marks the finish: arid, amid baked fruits and toffee. Leave me now, I have everything I need.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen Edition, 43.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $350
This uninhibited, tempestuous expression of Blue Label highlights the artistry of the blender through the judicious use of closed distillery malts and grains. Coastal notes of sea spray, lemon, dirty peat smoke, cookies and cream, After Eight mints, caramel, and dry-roasted spice aromas. Combining lemon bonbon, waxy orange, cookie dough, fondant icing, and chocolate, with tobacco smoke, hints of peppermint, and grapefruit notes, this flagrantly outclasses the Brora variant.
You don't mess with the Johnnie Walker brand name casually, so we expect greatness, and boy, do we get it here. This has a dusty, smoky nose with dried apricot and grape, and the whisky is gossamer-soft on the palate, with sweet pear and honey evolving on top of an oaky rich heart before a tidal wave of pepper and peat, and a delightful spice smoke and oak conclusion. Magnificent.
The pinnacle of the current Johnnie Walker range, this is a rare, inimitable blend of just nine whiskies. It exudes the aromas of ripe bananitos, whole mango, satsuma, vanilla seeds, barley awns, butter biscuits, and crystallized pineapple. The supple grain sustains indulgent, characterful malts creating a weighty, smooth mouthfeel. I’m smitten by the vanilla creaminess, burgeoning deep fruit layers, how it swells with a satisfying snuffbox smokiness. A beautifully styled blend delivering a captivating, sensuous experience. (330 bottles only)
A blend of eight whiskies including Oban, Brora, Cambus, and Lagavulin, producing a sweet yet complex dram that may surprise regular Blue Label drinkers. The nose has peach, marmalade, brown sugar sprinkled on caramel, fine pepper, soft peatiness, oiled wood, and campfire smokiness. The sugary palate yields toffee apple, fudge, vanilla, dried fruit, peach, and gentle spice, then fiery smoke, pepper, cocoa, milky coffee, and chocolate. Legendary indeed.
Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Glenury Royal Edition, 43.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $350
This presents a mellow bouquet of rich dried fruits, peat smoke, baked sugar on puff pastry, and almond butter cups. The chocolate-orange signature note ebbs and flows, mingling with spices and clove, nuts, dried apricot, caramel, vanilla, and baked apple, ending with a frisson of spice and mild smoke. Understated elegance: this whisky is polished smooth as glass.
Jim Beveridge delivered these aromas of toffee apple, peach, and rich berry fruits by working with European oak casks. The smoke is timid, with hints of background salinity. The finely structured mouthfeel is where this triple malt whisky truly shines: the polished smoothness is exceptional. The flavor journey begins with honey, citrus, and swirling melted chocolate, building to a fire of squeezed orange oils, dry fruits, and pecan nuttiness before concluding with rich espresso, dark caramels, and plain chocolate. Immaculate.
John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2016 Edition, 43%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $850
Here’s your private audience with the inestimable Mr. Beveridge. After contemplating impeccably selected aged liquids from the big five Distillers Company Limited (DCL) grain distilleries, he’s ready. Three vattings representing cask character, distillery character, and Highland single malt were combined in the final blend. Fresh layers of lemon and honey mingle with wood smoke. A seductive soft and creamy palate, saturated with fudge and delicate vanilla fuse together in a study of honeyed perfection. A fine indulgence. The best yet. (8,888 bottles)
Bright gold. Amazingly fresh fruits and quince, slowly evolving into mango, blueberry, and a jammy tayberry note. At the same time, exotic spices like cardamom begin to build, particularly when the surface is broken with a drop of water, while vanilla pod notes develop. In the mouth, the grain smooths all the elements, giving an unctuous feel. There’s just sufficient oakiness to give structure and any smoke is far in the distance. A triumph of the blender’s art. £100,000
John Walker & Sons Private Collection (2018) 28 year old Midnight Blend, 42.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $750
The end of a series, this fifth and rarest edition has worked leather, chocolate, dark toffee, cinnamon bark, toasted currants, charcoal, and smoking incense. The smoke is commanding but never domineering. It’s a contemplative and weighty proposition, dark as midnight, with plain chocolate, spices, and dark berries, with a smoky intensity following through on the finish. (3,888 bottles) Collectible
John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2017 Edition, 46.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $815
Closer to the heart of JW than its predecessors, Mastery of Oak follows a methodically complicated maturation and blending regime. American oak characteristics, singed cedar spills, damson jam, stewed apple, and rhubarb laced with peppery spice, nutmeg, and clove. A dichotomy of flavors: toffee apple and rhubarb become piquant, verging on sour, with a parallel strand of honey and Caramac. Short finish of the last vestiges of fruit and spice. (5,588 bottles, U.S. Travel Retail)
This spicy concoction, inspired by John Walker’s original Old Highland Whisky, has a nose of marzipan, candied peel, raisin, marmalade, aromatic spices, pepper, and ginger loaf, with a trace of cool smoke and peppermint. The strength and pepperiness give this plenty of clout, with a flavor unique among Johnnie Walker whiskies: brown sugar, hazelnut, royal icing on wedding cake, nuts, pepper, clove, peat, and blackened fruitcake.
Try this in your next Manhattan. Heather honey sweetness, Belgian waffles, cinnamon, rye spices, creamy vanilla, peppercorn, and dried porcini emerge after the 6-month rye cask finishing period. Sweet caramel oozes over the tongue, Highland toffee and Orkney fudge hold the spices in check. Banana candy and deep citrus acknowledge the Dufftown single malt component. The most accomplished Blender’s Batch to date. Emma Walker has nailed it. (Travel Retail exclusive)
John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2014 Edition, 46.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $840
Smoke begins Jim Beveridge’s public replication of the annual Directors Blend concept, built around Johnnie Walker’s signature characteristics. Peat smoke harks back to Islay, but there’s wood smoke, tobacco leaf, and malt, with a salty richness behind it. The grain just gives it a lift of extra sweetness. Polished, with great structure; red apple, raspberry, and sweet linctus wrap up with a long, smoky finish of cigar stub and peat stores. Clear parallels with Directors Blend 2009, but better. (8,888 decanters released) £500