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Johnnie Walker Gold Label – The Centenary Blend

Review: Johnnie Walker Gold Label – The Centenary Blend 92.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 6, 2009

The blend for Johnnie Walker Gold Label was created in 1920 by Sir Alexander Walker to commemorate the Johnnie Walker Company’s 100 years in business dating back to 1820. This is of course how this particular blend of Johnnie Walker received its name.  Although discontinued during the war due to shortage of blending stocks, the label was reintroduced in 1992, with a blend based upon the original blending notes left by Sir Alexander seventy-five years earlier.

Today the Centenary blend is reputed to contain 15 separate single malt whiskies each aged a minimum of 18 years. Of these single malts four in particular have been noted as being key to the distinctive taste of Johnnie Walker Gold:  Talisker  generates the general character of the blend; Clynish  generates the brine and seaside ambiance;  Royal Lochnagar  imparts the luxurious palate; and Cardhu lingers in the throat and provides the finish. I have read some claims that grain whiskies are in the blend as well, but whether that is true I have no confirmation. I am not snobbish against the grain whiskies, and this review concentrates on the aroma, the flavour, and the character of the whisky.

In the Bottle:  4.5/5

A handsome gold box introduces the whiskey. It is richly decorated with gold fonts and provides a brief history of the Gold Label. Inside the box rests the classic square cylinder of the Johnnie Walker whisky bottle.  The bottle is a dusky gold colour with a nice corked finish. Based upon the price point of this brand, I was hoping for a little more.  Perhaps a metal sleeve or a more information provided on the bottle label.

In the Glass:  9/10

A slightly punky peaty smell is accented by intense floral notes.  Seaweed and traces of iodine float in a mildly fruity sea pond, with a nice soft pop of cherry in the background.  A little oil in the glass adds legs and helps the nose achieve a certain harmony.  An interesting aspect of the nose is how it changes based upon temperature.  When the glass is at room temperature, the punky peat and seaweed have their way, but as ice is added the floral notes and fruitiness become much more dominant.

In the Mouth  55/60

At first all I tasted was that tried and true Johnnie Walker taste profile. Organic peat, hints of iodine, and lots of toffee.  But this is much smoother and creamier than the typical Johnnie Walker.  As I let the drink sit on my palate, flavours of  honey, mild citrus and cherry took form.  A sherry influence is present; it is not heavy, rather it seemed to provide a soft counter punch to the peat. The sherry flavour seems to melt with the peat smoke and make a rich cherry chocolate pudding in my mouth. The oil on the palate lets the honey sweetness linger.  This has a very luxurious feel and taste.

In the Throat 14/15

The finish is long and smooth.  Sweet honey is followed by an echo of smoke and peat.  The citrus and cherry are entwined into the finish but do not overwhelm either the honey or the peat.

The Afterburn  10/10

This is so much more than the sum of its parts.  A wonderfully complex yet finely balanced blend that always has me pouring a second glass.

(Note: The Centenary Blend has been replaced by Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve. (click on the link for the latest review))

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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Suggested Recipe:

The Golden Spike

I find it Johnnie Walker tastes great over ice.  But, I have even been known to sneak in an equal part of sprite or ginger-ale when I am in the mood for a taller drink.  I call this The Golden Spike.

In a Glencairn Glass:

Fill the Glen Cairn Glass half full of Crushed Ice
1 1/2 ounces of Johnnie Walker Gold Label
1 1/2 ounces of Schweppes Ginger Ale

Enjoy!!

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As always you may (loosely) interpret the scores I provide as follows:

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

10 Responses to “Johnnie Walker Gold Label – The Centenary Blend”

  1. Chip, just to let you know, Diageo have dropped the 18 year age statement from Gold Label. It is no longer being produced as an 18 year old blended scotch whisky. Now it is simply called “Gold Label Reserve.”

    Diageo have also introduced “Platinum Label” which does have an 18 year age statement.

    So, Chip, sometime, when you have the time, please review the new Gold Label Reserve. Inquiring minds want to know!

    • Thanks Jason,

      I must say I am disappointed that the whisky carrying the Gold Label name is no longer an 18 year old whisky. It always seems rather sneaky to me when a company earns a reputation with an older whisky only to see the age statement dropped later. However, the superior taste of their 12 year old Black label gives me some hope that Diageo can maintain quality with a younger blend (but like you I am curious if the whisky is as good as before).

      On the review front, I have recently made inroads with Diageo, and have even been sent a few samples for review, so who knows, maybe I will receive a bottle of the new Gold Label Reserve if I ask for it. Be patient though, I won’t be getting to anything that is not already in my review queue until after the new year.

  2. erich said

    hello as a new scotch conisuer i would aprceiate any advice on what is the best sipping scotch thanks Erich calgary

    • Hi Erich

      Here is a link to all of my whisky reviews. Please though, do not limit yourself to scotch. There are some fantastic Irish Whiskies, and in fact the new Ultra Premium Canadian Whiskies which have recently entered the market place are every bit as good as any Scotch whisky. (And usually considerable cheaper.)

  3. Marcel Dion said

    Fans of JW Gold and Green should stock up over the next year. Johnnie Walker Platinum is intended to replace both of these in North America according to Whiskycast. Green is my favorite of all the JWs; but then again, I’m big on anything associated with Linkwood these days. Thanks for the review Chip. I’ve yet to buy the Gold.

    • I have heard rumours of some changes in the Johnnie Walker Line-up, and have even seen a new “Double Black’ in the stores lately.

      Thanks for the heads up!

  4. John McLellan said

    Hi Chip;

    Great review and very helpful. Would you consider JW Gold worth the price point? I have been wanting to purchase a bottle but the $104 CAN here in BC has me hesitant. I am huge fan of Lagavulin 16 and Laphroig QC for ‘winter’ whisky. I need a ‘summer’ whisky.

    John

    • Hi John

      I consider the Gold Label well worth the price, and I keep a bottle on hand all the time, but there are a few whiskies I think you should consider which are considerably lower in price, Johnnie Walker Black Label, and even better the Highland Park 12. The HP 12 in particular always seems to taste just the way I want it too.

      .

      • John McLellan said

        I have considered Highland Park 12. My next trip over to Victoria I will sample it at a favorite pub with a huge list of Scotches.

        John

 
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