Pros: Exclusive, delicate, balanced, a true hero of blended scotches
Cons: Price (and creeping higher), its still a BLENDED scotch!
In the world of Scotch, JW Blue is the clear winner for carrying the image of the most popular, well known, top-of-the-line Scotches. Most people think of it as the rarest, most expensive and probably least-likely-to-drink scotches around. I'm writing this review to dispell a few myths -- For while Blue Label might appear to be the Lamborghini Countach of Scotches, while most of us won't drive a Countach in our lifetimes, JW Blue is QUITE within our reach! Despite being the rarest of the Johnny Walker line of Scotch, it is amazing how readily available something "rare" becomes when it fetches between 165 and 180 dollars per bottle!
Blue Label is Johnny Walker's current attempt to recreate the finest scotch from the original Walker recipes. Back in the 19th century, Johnny Walker blended an ultra fine, flavorful exclusive scotch and ONLY offered it to friends, family and those closest to him. The scotch was peaty, malty, yet because of the blend, very complex and lasting in the finish. The Blue Label offerred today certainly accomplishes the complexity part -- Sure, there are infinte flavors which dance across you palate. However, ironically, while I myself love complexity in a cigar, often times, I prefer the directness and consistency of a single malt scotch, especially when an exclusive and even esoteric Single can be had for 1/4 to 1/3 the price of a bottle of Blue! SO the real question becomes "Is This STuff REALLY Worth It???" WIth this review I intend to answer that question AND offer some hints of how to get Blue at a more reasonable price so perhaps you can actually drink this scotch and answer the original question for yourself -- This review is only intended to be a guideline, and hopefully, upon reading it, YOU can answer the question!
The recipe for Blue Label originated from the 19th century from Johnnie and son, Alexander, Walkers' search for the finest and scarcest highlands Scotch Whiskeys avaialable. Johnie Walker's master blenders created Blue label in celebration of the Walkers' relentless and uncompromising quest to blend the most balanced and flavorful Scotch. Today, Blue labeled is package beautifully, in original form, bottled in handsome blue flint glass. The bottle wears a handsome hinged Blue-Label box, with delicate silk on the inside. Each bottle is indivudally numbered with a guarentee of authenticty from the Walker distillery, including a well written booklet on the painstaking efforts that went into developing this fine blend and recreating a classic. Since the inception of Blue Label, the Scotch has gathered numberous awards and accolades, the most prestigious of which being the International Wine and Spirit Competition's award; Gold Medal for the Best Blended Whisky. The blend consists of only 16 of the scarcest Scotch Highlands whiskeys and Speyside malts, which is essential to keeping avid scotch drinkers interest, because it maintains the dark undertones and richness usually only found in a single malt.
Flavor wise, Blue Label is an instant classic from the first warm taste -- The blend has a wonderfully sweet aroma, very toasty and aged on the nose, the scotch drinks with a wide open bouquet of flavors, starting with a peaty and warm spicy body which developes into a very oaky and chocolaty body boasting fruity and almost chewy undertones. You can just taste the slightly buttery oak aging on the finish along with a delicate hint of sherry and fruitiness. All throughout the taste, the scotch goes from oaky and dry texture wise, to warm and moist, though unlike a cigar, the scotch maintains the same flavor, unlike a cigar which developes into different bodies and flavors along the way...What a shame, if this Scotch developed during the drink, like a cigar does throughout a smoking session, god only knows what flavors would come out!
I write tons of cigar reviews: While I typically don't offer advice pertaining to accompanying drinks to cigars, in this case, I WILL advise on cigars-to-drinks, or at least Blue label. Before I mentioned the notion of directness and consistency compared between single-malt and blended Scotch. The same kind of notion applies to cigars (although cigars aren't malted! Though if you're lucky you'll find some rare flavor-bombs which have a malty body!~) While I myself prefer a complex cigar and more direct single-malt scotch (like combining the yin and the yang) I also like to do the opposite. When I drink Blue Label, since it is so complex, I prefer a very direct cigar - sometyhing flavorful and powerful BUT not overly complex! Without going into Cubans, in terms of top-notch domestic cigars which fit this profile, my choice is the Oliva "O" series Omni. The Oliva "O" cigars are potent - packed with flavor, BUT because they're rolled puro style with all Habanos tobacco, the flavor remains very consistent, perhaps even almost monotone. I find combining complexity on top of complexity can be too chaotic to your palate, just a bit too much -- This destroys your ability to search for flavors and to appreciate the superb hand-craftsmanship and work that went into both Scotch AND cigar.
Bottom line, Blue Label is a serious Scotch, with a serious price. Sadly, sometimes I'm convined that alot of that price has more to do with the packaging and preparation, as opposed to the actual whiskey spirit itself! Compare JW Gold Label, it is aged 18 years (as opposed to Blue Label's 25 years) and while it's more of a straight highlands blend of only a hanful of whiskeys, it shares a similar body to the Blue, except less toasty and alot less fruity, though still very complex. So is Blue Label really worth this price??? 180 a bottle is no joke - However I can offer the following advice to buyers: Check out the market when you are OUT OF THE COUNTRY! Especially in the Islands - typically I make a trip to Bermuda every year or two. I buy Blue Label in Bermuda for 105 to 115 per bottle, depending on time of year. This is VERY fair, and at this price, the Scotch clearly becomes worth every penny, even as a blend. You can also find Blue at alot of duty-free shops at 125-130 per bottle. This is also substantially cheaper than 180! And since not everyone gets to Bermuda, if you happen to be going to Europe, you can find these prices at Heathrow, Charles De Gaulle, Milan, Rome, Ferihegy (Budapest) and many other hot-spots in Europe. So before you plunge almost 2 bills on a bottle of Scotch, talk to friends or family traveling to Europe or to the Islands, or if you're planning a trip yourself, remember to leave enough time to stop at a liquor store and/or duty free, to pick up a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label. Bottom line, while I typically prefer a single-malt scotch (where I pay good money ONLY for Scotch, and NOT on packaging or marketing), Blue Label is a wonderful blended scotch AND becomes even more wonderful at 105 a bottle!