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 24-Year Bourbon

If you’ve ever wondered how bourbon aged in Scotland might taste, Single Cask Nation has you covered. Of course, the real question is: Is it any good? Twelve years in Kentucky followed by twelve years in Scotland … that’s a long time for barreled cornwater. This could get oaky.


Pour: Single Cask Nation KSBW (undisclosed distillery)
Proof: 94.8
Age: 24 years
Color: mahogany
Nose: vanilla bean, heavily steeped herbal tea, blood orange
Taste: smoky caramel, pipe tobacco, cherry cordials
Finish: moderate length – sweet oak char, black licorice, leather 


Overall: Damn, that’s complex. Curiously easy on the palate too. For a rumored “pre-fire” bourbon, SCN’s 24-year rarity isn’t exactly dusty in profile. It isn’t modern either. It’s gracefully confounding: robust, delicate, dense, intelligent.

Rating: Heavenly hills of flavor.