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Johnnie Walker Platinum Label Is Here And It’s Good

Johnnie Walker whiskies - can you spot the new amongst the very old?

It’s been a long wait since I heard that Johnnie Walker would be releasing its two latest expressions in South Africa – Platinum Label and Gold Label Reserve – but they’re finally here. Johnnie Walker Platinum Label was launched back in mid September with a really interesting campaign. It revolved around a “One Bottle” shop in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg. On offer was “the first bottle of Johnnie Walker Platinum Label, signed by Master Blender, Jim Beveridge.” as the marketing blurb read.

The highest bidder walked away with the bottle at the impressive price of R76,000. The proceeds were donated to the South Africans Against Drunk Driving organization, a nice gesture. Contrary to what some may believe, whisky companies really do take the problem of alcohol abuse seriously and are strong advocates for Responsible Drinking.

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label UnboxedHaving missed out on attending the event, I was pleasantly surprised when the Johnnie Walker SA marketing team delivered a bottle of Platinum to my door.

I couldn’t help but notice what a handsome bottle it was when I removed it from its shiny silver plastic pod. Subtle tweaks to the design including some nifty facets and a thicker base make it one of the sexiest bottles I’ve seen in a long time. Can the contents live up to the container they’re enclosed in?

Hell, yes!! I was quite peeved with Johnnie Walker when I heard in December 2011 that the Green Label was being discontinued but I really think that the Platinum Label is a worthy successor.

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label – Tasting Notes

Nose: A balanced and full nose overflowing with spiced plums, toffees, a dollop of creamy melktert (milk tart – a signature SA dish), a nice backbone of wood and wispy tendrils of smoke.

Palate: What a fantastic mouthfeel! Rolls around the tongue so smoothly all the while delivering a ton of flavour. Vanilla sweetness fades away to cinnamon-dusted orange peel, fanning the smoke and warming the throat.

First pour of Johnnie Walker Platinum LabelFinish: A lingering finish with echoes of the citrus and smoke.

Overall Impression: A winner! I see this selling like mad, especially in night clubs and shebeens around SA. Here we have something more affordable than Johnnie Walker Blue Label, in impressive packaging and a stunner of a bottle and the whisky itself is superb! I’ve heard that “players” in clubs walk in and order a “coffin” (a bottle of JW Blue) from the bartender – I wonder what nickname this’ll earn?

Quite a few of the major liquor stores in SA are selling the Platinum at launch/Xmas prices of around R825-R850. Apparently that’ll jump up to around R999 in the new year, so grab a bottle now if you’re keen.

Next up is the Gold Label Reserve. Kiss the old Gold Label 18 year old goodbye folks. It’s been replaced by a no age statement whisky that is apparently still based around Clynelish (the Gold 18yo’s signature malt). It comes in a fair amount cheaper than its predecessor but then you would expect that it should. The official line is that the move was made to spread out pricing across the JW range and encourage consumers to move up the range. Fair enough.

But to me it smacks a bit of the bean counters driving down whisky production expenses to maximize on returns. A cynical thought maybe, but to me it’s a disturbing trend. Just look at Macallan’s move to replace their basic range (10 & 15 year olds) in the UK with their 1824 NAS range – Gold, Sienna and Ruby. The debate for and against moving from age statement to no age statement expressions is still bouncing around the internet. As long as it’s occurring in order to produce BETTER whisky, then I’m all for it. If, on the other hand, it means that accountants are seriously hampering master distillers’ options when it comes to the whisky that they can ultimately produce then I’m not impressed. Enough of my ranting, let me tell you about the arrival of my bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve!

Gold girls, Gold Balloons and Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve WhiskyOnce again, the great folks over at Johnnie Walker SA decided in their infinite wisdom to send over a bottle of the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve for me to try. What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that my bottle would be delivered by two gorgeous lasses in skin-tight mini dresses who proceeded to belt out Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” whilst performing a dance number… in my driveway!!! I stood there rather bemused while apparently my wife was howling with laughter inside the house. There one minute, gone the next, I was left standing in my driveway with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve and a bunch of gold helium balloons. Hats off to JWSA’s PR company Atmosphere Communications (Anika & the gang) for a crazy stunt that put a huge smile on my face 🙂

Song and dance out of the way, what is the whisky like?

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve – Tasting Notes

Nose: Vanilla ice cream sprinkled with crushed ginger biscuits and a toffee sauce.

Palate: A decidedly light mouthfeel and honeyed on the tongue. Heather and some smoke build as you hold it in your mouth. Slightly grainy too with some woo spice tickling the sides of the tongue.

Finish: The finish plays out in a similar fashion. Not overly long.

Overall Impression: A relatively straight-forward up & down whisky here. No real surprises or challenges. I’ve been told by a lady friend of mine that serving this over crushed ice with a twist of orange peel is really nice. I’ll take her word for it and rather stick with drinking the Platinum Label neat thank you very much!

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

The Gold Label reserve sells for around R570 a bottle across the country.

A big thanks to the Johnnie Walker SA team for sending me the whiskies to review – it is always appreciated.

My recommendation? Get yourself a bottle of Platinum before prices head north of R850 and hunt down a bottle of the discontinued Johnnie Walker Green Label (still my fave in the range) while they’re still available.

Sláinte!

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