Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 year 43%

First up in our “revisit” evening was a vetted malt from Johnnie Walker. For those not familiar, Green Label is a vatted malt – meaning a blend that uses only malt whisky not grain. The four distilleries used include Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila.

As usual, we sampled completely blind, discovering only later what we were imbibing.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 year 43%

  • Nose – Quite volatile, fresh and spirits, fruity – particularly citrus, fresh wood, very classic style, varnish, curd, youth, fruit, bourbon… after some time became quite muted, soft honey, light vanilla
  • Palate – Brine, spice – unexpectedly spicy – biscuit, a puff of smoke, light, no body, quite linear, flavours fall off very fast
  • Finish – Spice, bitter, wood
  • Water – Some thought better to not add, others found it rounded out the spice

It started off promising but after time the nose disappeared. Even on the palate, one needed to “hold” a generous sip to get the full spice experience. There was the sense of it being somehow “abbreviated.”

One remarked it isn’t such a bad “Starter Dram”…. and the “classic” quality was one we appreciated. There was a lot of speculation, with blend being bantered about as an option and even speculation of grains?

Our host shared he acquired this particular bottle some 6-7 year previously. For most, this was a revisit… albeit after many years as Green Label was for some time discontinued.

Here is what else we tried:

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Revisiting Johnnie Walker’s Green Label, Kavalan Solist Sherry, Kilchoman

One of the things I really appreciate about our original Mumbai tasting club is that our default is to sample blind. What the means is even something we thought we knew, we have an opportunity to rediscover.

Which was exactly our hosts theme – to revisit whiskies we all know – or at least we thought we did!

Here is what we tried:

With a bonus of Amrut’s Fever Club Con-Fusion Batch No 1, 46%… what fun!

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Dailuaine (2002/2013) 46%

Last in our experimental evening was another whisky you don’t often get to try as a single malt. If you are Johnnie Walker fan, you’ve had Dailuaine without even realizing it!

The folks over at Diageo describe Dailuaine as a “A complex whisky that can impress mightily.” Considered a Diageo ‘workhorses’, the distillery name is taken from the gaelic ‘dail uaine’ meaning green valley.

However you won’t often find this whisky outside of independent bottlers. Currently there is only the Dailuaine 16 year, part of the Flora and Fauna series, available as an official bottling.


Dailuaine 10 year (2002/2013) 46%

Distilled 30 May 2002, Bottled Aug 2013, Cask No 7068, Bottle No 382, Sherry Hogshead, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, bottled for La Maison du Whisky

We sampled it blind… and what did we find?

  • Nose – Cherry, prunes, soaked rum, very dense, tight with concentrated aromas, wood, leather book, dry spice, apple, pungent, sweet
  • Palate – Very full, creamy, rounded…. pronounced “a proper whisky”, black chewy liquorice, oily fat and full, gorgeous Christmas spices, cupcakes, coffee, toffee, a hint of toasted nuts
  • Finish – Such a lovely finish, rich spice with more coffee, liquorice, cinnamon. One of those rare finishes that just keeps on keeping you company for a long time… where a little goes a long way
  • Water – Caution… don’t add too much. Just a drop brings out more toffee coffee chocolate. A few more and muddles the magic.

This one took time to fully open up and reveal all its secrets. A completely sinful desert so rich that just a small spoonful satisfies.

Comments included:

  • “Stop teasing and lift the veil pretty please?”
  • “One sip is nearly enough!”

As a Gordon & MacPhail bottling exclusive for La Maison du Whisky, you won’t find tasting notes online however the bottle noted:

  • Nose – Subtle sherry influences with stewed apple, cinnamon and a hint of eucalyptus
  • Palate – Mild spices with green apple, orange and grapefruit flavours, Becomes creamy with a liquorice edge
  • Finish – Medium in length with fruit elements

In describing drams from this distillery, Diageo shares:

This is not just an after dinner dram, it’s an after-dinner mood in a liquid. Thick, rich yet pleasantly, palate-cleansingly sweet. Try Dailuaine whisky with the cheese course, or just nose the cheese rind, fruit and citrus aromas hidden in its depths.

Would we agree? Yes. It was a wonderful close to our experimental evening that also featured:

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Johnnie Walker ‘The Spice Road’ NAS 40%

I love 200 ml bottles of whisky! It is the perfect amount to sample solo, with a friend or two and even revisit.

Even better when they come free… as this little one did. Though I will admit, I did not buy the Johnnie Walker 1 L bottle that had it attached.

I will also admit the last time I had any kind of Johnnie Walker was at “The Journey” festival at Mehboob Studios in December 2014. For those in Mumbai end of the year – it really is a fabulous cultural event well worth catching!

However, I digress… let’s get to the whisky…

Johnny Walker 'The Spice Road'

Johnny Walker ‘The Spice Road’

Johnnie Walker ‘The Spice Road’ NAS 40%

What did I find?

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – There is a nice cinnamon, honey, as it airs sweetens more, a little smoke, some vanilla, cereals
  • Palate – Oddly flat, bitter, there’s that cinnamon again however it also has dried ginger and cloves, some peppercorns, quite dry, some malty caramel
  • Water – Even with just a couple drops its insipid – just don’t!
  • Finish – Limited, bit woody

At 40% it honestly is a bit wimpy, not complex and while the ‘spices’ are there, it isn’t in a well-rounded lip smacking kind of way.

So I recalibrated my expectations and threw caution to the wind! It was a warm evening..

Would it do well with ice? Not bad.

In fact if this is served at the next ‘The Journey,’ I might go for it… or consider it as a base for a more interesting cocktail – clearly others have this idea too! However as a duty-free exclusive that is unlikely.

So what’s this JW expression all about?

Focused on the lucrative duty-free crowd, the Explorer’s Club Collection with their Trade Route Series features three expressions:

  • The Spice Road for the journey from Europe to Asia
  • The Royal Route from Europe to Persia
  • The Gold Route of the Americas and Caribbean

What do they say about The Spice Road?

A complex whisky with rich flavour and exceptional smoothness. Matured in old oak casks for an intense finish inspired by the spice markets of Asia yet true to the Johnnie Walker signature.

What others say:

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Caol Ila 12 vs Caol Ila 12

Not so long ago, we had an opportunity to enjoy a special bottling of Caol Ila 1997 from Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice range. Bottled in 2009, this made the delightful whisky a 12 year…

Which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to pull out my standard Caol Ila 12 year for a proper tasting for quite some time. If you can believe it, a bottle has been kicking around my whisky cabinet at the ready to join an impromptu party or sociable occasion for more than a year… seriously.

Much as I enjoy a good dram in convivial settings, when it comes to tasting notes, I prefer focusing on the whisky alone either in a very small group of fellow whisky aficionados or solo. And for whatever inexplicable reason, those moments haven’t turned attention to my neglected Caol Ila.

Until a few nights ago on my own and again last night at an insanely enjoyable inaugural ‘Whisky Ladies’ evening in Mumbai.

Caol Ila 12 year (Whisky Lady)

Caol Ila 12 year (Whisky Lady)

Caol Ila 12 year 43%

  • Colour – Bright cheerful yellow straw
  • Nose – Honey, lemon, vanilla, a curl of peat, pear, a little curd
  • Palate – Welcome to the embrace of our old pal peat! A little spice, some sea salt to accompany the smoke, there is subtle substance to the body, a little oil, simple enveloping you in whisky warmth
  • Finish – Yes it is there… smokey, peppery yet surprisingly soft too
  • Water – Can add a drop or two but not necessary

I find the Caol Ila 12 one of those absolutely dependable and under-rated Islay whiskies. It has that characteristic peaty element however without the dramatic boldness found in some Islays. While more subdued, it is also more balanced.

In short, it is one you can reach out for and simply enjoy.

And I realised anew why this whisky was one of my early staples… as in back in the day when I’d had little exposure to the world of whisky. Blame the Caol Ila among a few others for getting me hooked on to exploring more about this elixir of the gods.

I also can see why this whisky appeals to a desi palate… after all it is a key element in the ever popular Indian favourite Johnnie Walker Black Label. And if any of you remember that vatted malt Green Label? Yup! Once again – think Caol Ila.

As for the Gordon & MacPhail bottle that prompted my pulling out this Caol Ila for a revisit? Believe it or not I had a few wee drops squirrelled away just to compare.

Without a doubt the same family, however the Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila 12 year is a more mellow, more complex, more nuanced single malt and takes everything I enjoy about Caol Ila and makes it more exquisitely etched… like bringing an appealing slightly blurry photo into rich focus.

Here’s what others say about the Caol Ila 12 year:

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