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Issue 57 - Blue is the colour

Whisky Magazine Issue 57
July 2006

 

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Blue is the colour

Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a thoroughbred whisky but does it live up to the hype? Ian Buxton got close and personal

When you think about it, Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a little like the impressively large marine mammal that shares its colour.

Like the blue whale, it's rare, rather precious and, even if you don't see one every day, it's good to know it's there.

At around £150 a bottle Blue Label is always going to be something of a luxury. It might not be strictly necessary but we'd all be a little bit worse off without it. After all, you may not be able to afford it today but we all need something to strive for. Life would be pretty dull without targets.

The Johnnie Walker range can be traced back to 1867 when Alexander, Johnnie's son, first blended the whisky that we know as Black Label. Today, it's the best-selling premium whisky in the world.

The family has grown since then. Next came Red Label (c1909) to be joined eventually by Gold and Green Labels (formerly Johnnie Walker Malt). Blue came along in 1992.

Unlike most of the whisky world it doesn't carry an age statement, despite its superpremium price tag. Why?

Maureen Robinson, Diageo's Scotch liquid development manager and one of the original blending team, explains that the goal was to emulate the powerful character of a traditional 19th century blend.

That's an interesting challenge. Whisky was fuller flavoured back then, with a more pronounced taste and greater ‘peat reek.' After all, as late as 1930, Aeneas MacDonald could write: “The convenient proximity of a peat bog is an economic necessity for a Highland malt di...

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