I have long relied on Johnnie Walker’s 12-year old ‘Black Label’ blended whisky (aka JWB) as a standard everyday drinking whisky and a standard of quality against other blends. I’ve compared JWB to Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker’s Green Label and special releases, various other ‘two Jackson‘ ($40) whiskies, a Compass Box blend, and Dewar’s Ancestor. And today we’re at it again, comparing the Johnnie Walker ‘Double Black’ to the venerable JWB.
Note: if you came here for scurrilous photos (searching for ‘naked’ are you?) you will be disappointed….nothin’ but whisky here.
Completely serendipitously, I find myself with two blended malt whiskies. These were purchases of opportunity. They are ‘Naked,’ imported by Edrington (the outfit behind Highland Park and Macallan), and Copper Dog, from the Craigellachie Hotel in the town of the same name, imported by Diageo.
First off, what is a blended malt? It is a blend of only malt whiskies, which can be from different distilleries. I like buying blended malts like Monkey Shoulder because for about the same price as a blend, you are getting pot-stilled malt whiskies, with no column-distilled grain alcohol (as you will find in even a nicely aged blend like Johnny Walker Black). What you usually do not get with a blended malt is an age statement, so the downside of a blended malt is that you may have some more aggressive, younger spirits in the mix.
Compass Box is quite the opposite of the typical Scotch whisky maker. It is a very new entrant, having been founded in AD 2000. Instead of hailing their age-old styles and techniques, they have been innovative, sometimes pushing the envelope of where the Scotch industry is willing to go. They are like the old guard in that they are rather expensive—their signature lines start at over $80 here in Oregon, and the top of the line ‘Hedonism’ is over $140…for a non-age statement (NAS) blended whisky. Wow. I’ll get to that one some day.
Today’s pick is their relatively affordable Artist Blend. Artist Blend is also NAS (as most blends are). You can pick this up for about fifty bucks. Still, that’s a cool $15 more than Johnnie Walker Black, which is aged for 12 years. That’s nearly a 50% premium. So, from that perspective, the Artist Blend is a pricey find and I expect it to deliver.
Dalwhinnie 15 is a whisky that has flown under my radar for too long. Before the pandemic, the Dalwhinnie was mentioned by a whisky buddy as her favorite. I smacked myself in the forehead, of course! How had I missed it?
Located on the Trium, a tributary of the Spey, Dalwhinnie is considered both a Speysider but also a Highland distillery. The distillery is located on the far side of Cairngorms National Park from Dufftown (heart of the Speyside region) and they brag about it being the highest and coldest whisky distillery in Scotland, so I’m approaching it as a Highlander and will compare to the Clynelish 14, a lower-priced dram, but also a Highlander. Both are from Diageo and I’m interested to see how they are differentiated.
You may have seen the range of special-release whiskies following the Game of Thrones TV series. I had a lot of other whiskies to review stacked up so did not catch any of those when they arrived, but recently I stumbled across a discount shelf with this blend from Johnny Walker. I always keep some Johnnie Walker Black around, and I figured, why not give this a comparison to the standard. Also, I have read the SOIAF books and followed (suffered?) through the Game of Thrones series on HBO until the end. I even mused here on the blog about the annoying habit of showrunners sending their characters into danger without proper headgear. So, the buy was a no-brainer.