Today’s pairing began with long and agonizing research into picking a perfect partner for the Johnnie Walker Green Label, which I got as the next surprise dram from my advent calendar (I’m almost done with it!). I wouldn’t have picked Johnnie Walker as another whisky to taste in this round, but that’s the fun part of spending time with “random” selections. In the following write-up, I’ll talk a little bit about this process, the finalized choices, and the unexpected results that made me think twice about some of these blends. But first, music! Now playing: Richard Skelton – A Guidonian Hand.
I was first going to pair this 15-year-old with the Black Label to see how well it stood out against it. But I felt that I would already know the answer to this experiment. Plus, I’ve profiled the Black Label before, comparing it against the Gold Label, and it’s worth pointing out that the Green Label is a Blended Malt, which means that, unlike the Red, Black, Gold, and even Blue, it consists entirely of malt scotch, with no additional grain whisky added [although, plenty of colouring]. I still pulled out the Black just to sip it on the side, but I won’t cover it here. My next choice was to have it go up against The Loch Fyne The Living Cask 1745 [which I haven’t opened yet], but at double the price of the Green and consisting strictly of Islay single malts, I didn’t feel that it would be a fair pairing [I have predicted that The Living Cask 1745 would clearly win]. Finally, I remembered an old and opened bottle of Grant’s Distillery Edition blend I have brought from the US, tried, didn’t really like it, and thought of getting rid of. Perhaps this was my chance of giving it a final shot, and, as I anticipated, if it was terrible, I’d probably just clear it from my shelf to make some space for another single malt. With that long intro now in place, I started the process of tasting the two, occasionally adding some water to let each one open up a bit.
With Grant’s proudly proclaiming that it is bottled at 100° Proof, I tried to bring it down to the Green Label‘s 43%. I also noticed that this old bottle sat out for probably more than two decades now [I have inherited it from an old American stash] and has really mellowed out [the alcohol has slowly evaporated through the screw cap]. But there was also another noticeable difference between the Green Label [which, by the way, I presume to be the latest incarnation of this expression, probably from 2020 or so], and this ancient beast of a blend [non-chill filtered and of natural colour]: the Johnnie Walker, albeit with some peat which comes from Caol Ila, was simply bitter on the finish, while the Grant’s was smoother and sweeter to taste. This monster of a 1L bottle can be bought at some small airports for only £15, it has the grain, and it is not flamboyant, and yet, upon each tasting and nosing back and forth, it has consistently outshined the Johnnie Walker. I tried to find some more details about this bottle, but it appears to be out of production, and as I mentioned, mine is bottled sometime in the 90s [or so I presume]. And although I suspected that the Green would beat it by a mile and that I’d simply pour this old blend down my sink, I must admit, I’m pleasantly surprised at the delivery of this impeccable and historic whisky, and so I slide it back upon my shelf.
I think it’s important to point out that, although the Johnnie Walker’s brand is strong and known worldwide, and although it’s supposed to keep its “recipe” the same, it simply isn’t possible with changes in the whisky, and so it has changed in profile and in price. The “Directors Cut Blade Runner 2049″ edition of Johnnie Black is currently available for a mere £1000, and, really, there is absolutely no reason to pay that much. Especially, as many have reported, its quality has gone down through the years. If anything, this particular tasting has only created an interest in trying the older Johnnie Black or Green just to compare it with the newer incarnations. Perhaps that is why Grant’s has held up pretty well, and with that, I’ll proclaim that Grant’s Distillery Edition wins this round.