Johnnie Walker Blue Label Highest Awards
Posted 15 September 2021 by Matt / In Blend
Bottle Name: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Highest Awards
The history of Blue Label can be drawn back further than its official release in 1992. Johnnie Walker’s Oldest pays more than a passing resemblance to what would go on to become one of the world’s most famous whiskies. And indeed, the makeup of this forerunner expression, noted as containing whiskies aged up to 60 years, and rumoured to included liquids from DCL’s (the forerunner to Diageo) distilleries Port Ellen and Brora have led to persistent rumours about the actual composition of Blue Label decades later– most of which increasingly don’t stand up to scrutiny.
The development of Blue Label is alleged to have stemmed from Alexander Walker’s (son of Johnnie Walker) “Old Highland Whisky” created in 1867 whose composition contained whiskies from “the four corners of Scotland”. A romantic notion for a product released over 100 years later, but still holding some water given the diversity of Diageo’s distillery portfolio and its geographic disparity.
You’ll already have noted that this Blue Label – named “Highest Awards” due to the text listing a selection of competition wins (the expression wasn’t always quite so well known) – is bottled at 43% ABV. This is not a one-off aberration similar to some of the ‘Casks Editions’ of Blue Label that are also offered at a higher (considerably) ABV. No – back in the day, Johnnie Walker Blue Label was simply bottled at this slightly higher alcoholic strength – likely as a market differential to the other JW bottles within the range.
The release is hard to precisely date, but likely comes from sometime around 1993-1994 – so shortly after the initial release of Blue Label in 1992. You’ll still see older bottlings at auction – and indeed you might well be able to pick them up at comparable prices to modern day Blue Label – which is just what I did.
Nose: White grapes and green apple slices sit alongside crunchy toffee. Developing in the glass, dry earthiness, tobacco leaf and rose petals present together with sunflower oil and touch of dried mango.
Taste: Holds its stated ABV well with a selection of waxes and oils, all of which provide body and structure. Antique orange liqueurs and cinnamon spiced toffee are joined by old style sherry, sour pineapple chunks and sponge. The mid and back palate brings additional oakiness together with a citric pang and shaving of stem ginger.
Finish: Medium in length with a selection of syrupy tinned fruits and drying, somewhat tannic wood.
Compared to its present-day manifestation, this 90s Blue Label feels less refined and polished. But what is lacks in elegance, it more than makes up with in character. Vibrancy, structure and cohesion are offered alongside occasional welcome asides into either the distillate base or cask constituents. And whilst none of this feels particularly intricate it still manages to offer a uniqueness that has been either lost or deliberately discarded from this bottling over the decades. The additional 3% ABV doesn’t feel significantly more generous in the mouth than the current day Blue Label – however the malt base most certainly includes weightier elements which really ground the expression in terms of its ‘feel’ – never anything less than “smooth”, but with plenty of presence throughout.
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