And so here we are, my first blended whisky review. I find it rather surprising that it has taken me till the 29th review to actually feature a blend when you consider that there’s almost always a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label or Dewar’s White Label at home.
But seeing as how both those aforementioned whiskies are somewhat common (even bordering on boring), I’ve decided to spice things up for my first blended whisky review. Pun fully intended of course.
Over the years, I have sampled quite a diverse range of blended whiskies from a multitude of producers. But I believe one can safely say that no other blended whisky brand out there is as well established as Johnnie Walker, which is basically the behemoth within the category.
In my experience with the Johnnie Walker range, I can definitely say that it has been a mixed bag. Some of the expressions I have liked (Black Label, Double Black, Green Label, Gold Label 18 Years Old), some which I have found middling (Blue Label, Platinum Label, XR 21 Years Old, Gold Label NAS Reserve) and some which I have downright despised (Red Label).
There are some out there which I have not tried as yet but I will surely get to one of these days, but in recent times I have spotted different variations of the Johnnie Walker blended category at Duty Free.
One of these would be the Explorers’ Club Collection, which is a collection of four different expressions with the following names:
- The Adventurer (Sweet, fruity & smoky)
- The Spice Road (Sweet, spicy & smoky)
- The Gold Route (Sweet, fruity, spicy & smoky)
- The Royal Route (sweet, fruity, spicy, savoury & smoky)
With each level comes a slightly different sensory experience (and also a noticeably different pricetag) which provides a form of progression which the master blenders at Johnnie Walker are looking to convey.
Personally, I have only tried The Spice Road as it is probably the most readily available expression of the lot at Duty Free and retails for approximately SG$45. I don’t usually go for blended whiskies at Duty Free and this one usually gets picked up by my father if he is looking to mix things up from the usual fare.
Well, let’s dive right in, shall we?
Johnnie Walker Explorers’ Club Collection – The Spice Road (40% abv)
Colour: Burnished gold
Nose: Orange, cinnamon and aniseed on initial entry, with nutmeg, white pepper, oak elements and some citrus notes entering the fray after. The nose definitely stays true to the name.
Woody cask tannins from the old casks used to finish the whisky are also present. After a while, cognac elements begin to emerge, which is rather interesting. More spices towards the end, with cardamom and star anise. Very spicy-heavy nose! (19/25)
Palate: Nice warm and tingly spice note on the palate, with a melange of spices from the nose presenting themselves in waves. Cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise are the more prominent, with just a hint of barley sugar.
Some lemon and orange citrus notes are present mid-palate, with more nutmeg and some oaky tannins from the nose also appearing late on. Not as expressive as the nose, which is a shame. Mouthfeel is slightly oily. (17/25)
Finish: Rather short finish, with the spices fading fast and leaving only mere embers on the tongue. Underwhelming for the most part and quite disappointing to be honest. (11/25)
Balance: I was expecting more from this whisky to be honest. The balance of this dram was rather skewed towards the expressive nose, but the palate turned out to be disappointing and the less said about the finish, the better. It’s a decent dram, but nothing spectacular. (13/25)
I believe this has to be the lowest rating that I have given so far, but please do not take this as an indictment or even a show of prejudice against blended whiskies.
There are some phenomenal blends out there (Compass Box’s Great King Street – Artist’s Blend springs to mind) which I have enjoyed and I believe that more blends should be made to inspire a feeling of awe within the drinker.
Sadly, this one wasn’t one of them.