Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Next up in my Johnnie Walker series is the Gold Label Reserve. Priced at a significant premium over Johnnie Walker Black ($85 vs. $35) and labeled without an age statement, I’m eager to weigh in on this commonly found, yet infrequently discussed whisky.


Pour: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
Proof: 80
Age: not stated
Color: amber
Nose: smoked pear, glazed apple, honey
Taste: savory vanilla, graham cracker, dried apricot
Finish: moderate length w/ smoky caramel, singed sugar, faint leather


Overall: Maybe it’s an oversimplification, but I can’t help but describe the Gold Label as a sweeter, slightly elegant version of JW Black. There’s a white fruit quality about it, but with enough smokiness to add complexity. I’m just not tasting the premium.

Rating: Gold-plated.

Johnnie Walker Black Label

The first in my Johnnie Walker series … Over the next few days, weeks, however the time rolls, you’ll get my take on various offerings of this iconic brand. Please note, my preference lies with American whiskey. As such, you won’t find any snooty Scotch elitism here.


Johnnie Walker Black, or as the late Hitchens affectionately called it, “Mr. Walker’s Amber Restorative.” It was my first Scotch, and I’ve appreciated it since. It’s been a while since I purchased a bottle, but a recent trip to the liquor store cured that. Sláinte!


Pour: Johnnie Walker Black Label
Proof: 80
Age: 12 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: smoky caramel, honey, orange jam
Taste: salty vanilla, mild oak, boozy honeydew
Finish: moderately short w/ charred apple, leather, pepper


Overall: Cigar. Whisky. Leather chair: This is Johnnie Walker Black. Spare me your high-class single-malt diatribe. If you want to spend $35 on a whisky that’s smoky, sweet, slightly fruity and undeniably balanced, this may be all you’ll ever need.

Rating: Surefire staple.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask

This is my first venture into The Balvenie (yes, the “the” is important). Stirred by the encouragement of brand ambassador Jamie Johnson, I decided to give the so-called “bourbon friendly” 14-year Caribbean Cask a whirl. A Scotsman and a pirate walk into a bar …


Pour: The Balvenie Caribbean Cask
Proof: 86
Age: 14 years
Color: light amber
Nose: apple, toast & honey, ambrosia
Taste: whipped custard, pear, faint white pepper
Finish: moderate length – vanilla, sugary oak, hints of exotic spice


Overall: Well I’ll be Jackie MacSparrow, this is a damn fine whisky. Though a bit shy on complexity, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask delivers a whimsically sweet, romantically spicy sipping experience that whisks you away then calls for your return. Avast, ye!

Rating: Swashbuckling.

Single Cask Nation Invergordon 46

Joshua Hatton and Jason Johnstone-Yellin of J&J Spirits sure have a way of finding unique casks. Today’s pour is no exception, a 46-year single grain whisky produced by the Scottish Highland’s Invergordon Distillery. It’s the oldest whisky I’ve tasted to date. Sláinte!


Pour: Single Cask Nation Invergordon 46
Proof: 92.4 (46.2% ABV)
Age: 46 years
Color: pale gold
Nose: butter pecan ice cream, waffle cone, white grape
Taste: Necco wafer, wheat cracker, zesty candied pear
Finish: moderate length – grapefruit, confectioners sugar, almond shell


Overall: Wrapping my head around this profile is no easy task. On one hand there’s ample sweetness composed of white fruit and confectionery charm. On the other, particularly the finish, there’s a distracting bitterness. A fun experience, though not my favorite.

Rating: Quirky.

Special thanks to Malt Review’s Taylor Cope for the generous sample.

Ardbeg Ten Year Old

‘Tis Burns Night all ye ladies and gents, and I fancy myself a wee dram; Not a bourbon or rye, nor libation with ice, but a malt from a land known as Islay.

‘Tis said that a Scotch gets finer with age, I can see why a bloke might agree; Yet, ten years is enough with its sweet waft of smoke – O’, my heart it beats fondly for Ardbeg.


Pour: Ardbeg Ten Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch
Proof: 92
Age: ten years
Color: vegetable oil
Nose: enticing smoke, singed honeydew melon, caramel-pear
Taste: medicinal fabric, sweet & salty wafer, vanilla spice
Finish: long & complex w/ lingering peat, seawood, faint honey


Overall: You can have your fancy, hyper-aged single malts – your blue-label blends and high-dollar rarities. For me, there is one Scotch conquering all. Affordable, available, and juxtaposed with coastal elegance and fury, ‘tis Ardbeg Ten. Sláinte.

Rating: Perfect ten.