Back in 2012, old whisky was in trouble. The demand for whisky was going through the roof, and as a result many distilleries and brands were faced with a tough choice: Go NAS entirely or cut back where possible. Some brands – notably Macallan – went with the former and removed aged bottles from entire markets, replacing them with Johnnie Walker style colour differentiators and no age statements. Others cut back on individual expressions, and it was often the 15-year-olds that got the axe – not quite cheap enough for the 12 crowd and not prestigious enough for the 18 buyers.
Around this time is was tough to track down Highland Park 15, GlenDronach 15… even Bowmore 15 left South African shelves for a time. But the biggest shock was the discontinuation of Johnnie Walker Green Label, the only blended malt in the Walker lineup and one on the receiving end of heaps of praise.
But it’s back. As of 2016 Green Label – the amazing result you get from mixing Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and a pinch of Caol Ila together in one beautiful, unbeatable blend – is available worldwide. 15 years old, pure malt and sexy as hell. Go forth!
Yessir. Apples. Salt. Dark chocolate. Ocean spray. Grapefruit. Cut grass. Bananas. And a mild peat, moreso than the Black Label but hardly dominating.
Hellooooo nurse! A powerful arrival – intense, bitey alcohol that takes a few sips to settle. But bursting with fresh fruits on top of caramel, woody malt and expertly layered peat. Pepper, cinnamon. A sweet development, like candy apples. Coconut, pineapple.
Unsurprisingly, the lack of grain whisky allows Green Label to soak up a little more water before it starts to dissolve. I found I preferred it with a few drops to dial back the alcohol and turn this into a wonderfully slow dram.
A seriously slow finish with a smoky (ash, fire smoke) and sweet departure.
Johnnie Walker Green Label is the lovechild of a bunch of whiskies I utterly adore. And the result doesn’t disappoint – a brilliant, subtle and tightly integrated blend of mild ocean peat, fresh Speyside fruit and classic Black Label spice. I absolutely love this stuff. And in terms of value? Hell yeah – R650 for a 15-year malt this ridiculously drinkable is money well spent!