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Johnnie Walker Brings Back the Gold

Jack Bettridge
Posted: February 7, 2014

The Sochi Olympics has just started, but one illustrious Scotch whisky has already brought home the gold. A form of Johnnie Walker Gold Label has returned to the market.

Johnnie Walker’s introduction last year of the 18-year-old Platinum Label resulted in the phasing out of its Gold Label mark of the same age. Now, the blended Scotch whisky maker has reinstituted the color code and the relative pricing, but without the same maturation standard.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve debuts as a no-age-statement blend that effectively fills the same price niche abandoned by Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 Year Old (the latter sold for about $85 and the former goes for $87). The new 18-year-old, Platinum Label, sells for $110. One rung down is Johnnie Walker Double Black at $42.

The whisky has arresting packaging—the entire bottle is covered in reflective gold—and has previously been available only in duty-free travel markets. First released on a more general level late last year, the company positions it as a festive and celebratory bottling.

Like the previous Gold Label, this iteration isn’t as markedly peaty as other Johnnie Walker releases, such as Red, Black and Blue Labels, nor the extra peated Double Black. Both Gold Labels also a share a fruity, sweeter profile.

The latest iteration of the Gold blend brings a preponderance of Clynelish, a single malt with extensive fruit and honey notes. Johnnie Walker has been associated with the Highlands distillery name since at least 1916, when it acquired a stake in the facility that was then called Clynelish. In 1969, a new Clynelish distillery (the source for the current Gold Label) was built nearby and the original was renamed Brora. Interestingly, Brora, at one time, made heavily peated whisky when a shortage of Islay malt existed. The old distillery was shuttered in 1983, but some examples are occasionally seen on the market as Diageo, owner of Johnnie Walker as well as several malt distilleries, makes special releases of its Classic Malts Selection.

The new bottling’s other connection to Clynelish? In 1868, gold was discovered in the Kildonan Hills, from which the distillery’s water source flows.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve 

(80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume; no age statement; $87 a 750-milliliter bottle)

APPEARANCE: Rich amber color, sort of wheaty, fat legs.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

Fern Walraven February 25, 2014 9:43am ET

It is quite expensive but worth the price. It's very smooth, perfect for celebration and its also best enjoyed with soda.

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