If you were of my generation, you’ll remember Dewar’s ads from magazines–often full-page ads, typically with a Scots Guard soldier in full regalia and some marketing flack typical for its day. These days I don’t notice many advertisements for Dewar’s. When I encounter the brand I’m on a commercial flight and I’ve asked what they have for scotch; it’ll be their White Label. In the marketing wars the brand appears to be outshone by the massive Johnnie Walker complex, but they still have a strong presence in bars in the U.S. They claim to be the fifth largest selling blended Scotch in the world and top selling Scotch in the U.S. Maybe Johnnie just advertises more?
Notably, Dewar’s web site claims the White label is “The World’s Most Awarded Blended Scotch Whisky.” Maybe they just entered more competitions, I don’t know. I tried finding a list of their awards. Still looking.
This is the first of three straight NAS whisky reviews. I relented on Talisker’s Storm when the price came down, from over $55 locally (Oregon) to just under $50. The original price was not so obnoxious as some NAS whiskies — I tried a Dalmore King Alexander III recently, for example, which runs $305, and Ardbeg’s Corryveckan is about $90. But still, $55 is the range where you can get a nice 12-year-old.
The standard Talisker 10, one of my favorites, isn’t cheap of course, at about $65 locally, so the opportunity to fill the Talisker-sized hole in my liquor cabinet for fifty bucks was too good to pass up. So, how does the Storm compare? After all, it is a Talisker, and we have expectations: of light peat smoke, a unique medicinal nose, shades of wrack and seaweed, citrus and fruit.
So, you have someone you know is ‘into’ Scotch and you want to buy a nice present. You don’t want to set a foot wrong, and certainly don’t want to see her writing about your present as “the Scotch I save for folks who don’t know Scotch, or drown it in Coke.” Yes, I’ve read that on many a Scotch blog. Rude, I think…but it happens — because A) The styles of Scotch vary wildly in their aroma and taste (why it’s a fascinating obsession, yo!) and B) Scotch drinkers are often quite partisan about their preferred style.
Prep: Single malt vs. blend, and U.S. availability
We’re going to focus mostly on single malt scotches — this refers to a whisky that is made totally from one distillery’s production. They can (and do) mix casks and even years of production for a single malt. But as soon as they mix casks from another distillery and add grain alcohol (mass-produced, typically), then it is a blend. Common blends are well-known, like Johnnie Walker, Chivas, Dewars, Whyte and MacKay. These are the province of the casual drinker, not the Scotch enthusiast. Single malts will have more character, as the peculiarities of water and still are not blended out — hence they appeal to folks looking for adventure. Note: my focus is on brands available in the U.S., as that’s where I live.
There is a bit more to learn, so let’s do this in steps. We’ll gather some intelligence, align that to some facts, and send you shopping with a budget and some suggestions.
I just got back from a week in New York City – spent seven days tramping all over Manhattan Island, seeing the sights. We had fabulous weather and came home knackered every day. And yet, after the crowds, and with the noise and the time change, it was great to unwind with a nightcap at the hotel. We were spending major $$$ on a rarely indulgent vacation (food, shows, museums), so we bought a bottle of whisky at a local shop instead of heading to the hotel bar for a $15 cocktail. The pick for the week: Johnnie Walker Black Label. That whisky, for the few souls who have read through the reviews below, serves as a benchmark for me — a case of a mass-market product done consistently well. And in a week where we didn’t want to have to over-think our whisky, it was a natural choice. Good enough to feel we were still treating ourselves while reasonable enough in cost (though with that Manhattan tax, a bit spendy) to not kill our daytime budget. I had written of JW Black here that it had a nose of light peat, with honey, peaches and sherry notes. The palate I find fairly complex, repeating the peaches with a dash of vanilla, white pepper and earthy oak. I note a touch of watermelon as well. The finish is its weakness, as it is rather quick. You get some honey and oak tannins to balance. Bottom Line: JW Black is hard to beat for the price. It is $40 for 750 ml at home; we found a liter bottle for $62 in Manhattan – about 20% more expensive. Continue reading “Whisky and Words Number 7: Johnnie Walker Green and Black”
This is a bit unfair to old JWB — he wants to just keep walking, but just as the old boy saunters past the once-garish, now-tatty hawker’s booth nestled in the seawall of Old Brighton, just west of the pier, out come a couple yobs wielding – wait for it – glencairn glasses. Frightening. You guessed it, we’re not just looking at old JW Black here, but comparing him to another Black and a simian. And even a single-malt. Which we gotta do as there are 1000 reviews of JWB around – we need some spice for this old pottage.