The Whisky Tasting Club

Green Label

I was very disappointed to hear that Johnny Walker Green Label is to be no more.

One of the great things about whisky is the way that it can evoke special memories and take you to a special place. And I had a real soft spot for the Green Label, both as a drinking whisky and for the associations I have with it.

It’s a particularly oddball whisky, a non conformist, and people who know me will appreciate how much those traits appeal to me.

Perhaps, though, it was for these reasons that it had no future and had to go. Johnnie Walker is the leading name in blended whisky. A few years ago I asked ten blenders to name the best blend they didn’t make. Nine said Johnnie Walker Black label, the other was the blender who made it. It’s a phenomenal blend from red to blue. The problem with Green, though, is that it’s not a blend. It’s a blended malt.

The difference is that a blended whisky is a mixture of malts from different distilleries and grain whisky. A blended MALT whisky is a mixture of malts from different distilleries but with no grain.

But there’s an irony here. Just a few days after it became illegal to use other terms such as ‘vatted malt’ as a description for a mix of malts, the one blended malt in the Johnnie Walker range was given notice. I understand it is to be replaced by a new member to the family called Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve. I’m not quite sure what that is, but I guess it’ll be a pricier more premium version of the current Johnnie Walker Gold, which is an 18 year old blend.

Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to a blending days briefing by Diageo on Tuesday, when I guess such issues were discussed and explained. But that’s by the by. Diageo no doubt has its reasons, but for me it’s just a great loss. The whisky is a delightful example of how good vatted whisky…whoops, sorry … can be.

It’s a fresh vibrant whisky which was re-launched as an ‘outdoor’ sporty whisky a few years ago. Whenever I taste it I smile at the memory of whisky writer Dave Broom attempting to play croquet on a soggy lawn in the rain – don’t ask – and then proudly marching around said lawn with a beautiful shepherd’s crook which I think he won that day… Happy days.

This is what I wrote about it in my The World’s Best Whiskies book: “Whenever I taste this- and I really love it – I am reminded of steep, muddy forest paths by gurgling brooks in the shadow of mountains on a wet spring day. As you would expect from Johnnie Walker tis is a master class in whisky-making and just about as good as vetted malts can get -give or take the odd Compass Box offering (which, interestingly, tends to use a similar range of malts). It is refreshing, clean whisky with a weighty dose of Clynelish and she to-die-for smoke. Truly outstanding.”

I’ve just bought three bottles so that I can continue my relationship with it for a little longer. Do yourself a favour and do the same.

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  • Winston Evans

    Dec 21st, 2011

    Couldn’t agree more. RIP JW Green Label – she will be greatly missed.

  • You only bought 3 bottles so I guess they won’t be any money to make out of this in 10 years ?

  • Scott MacKenzie

    Dec 24th, 2011

    It’s my understanding that Green Label won’t be phased out until 2013, so we have some time to stock up before it’s gone for good.

    Personally, I think it’s a bad call on Diageo’s part. I won’t move up to a pricier new Gold Label blend. Once the Green Label is gone, I’ll just go back to buying Black Label. As any fashion expert will tell you, you can’t go wrong with basic black!

  • I am really disappointed by this development. Mind you, the rumours had been circulating for a couple of years.

    In industry guy told me that the reason may stem from the fact that sales were weak due to the fact that it was priced in the vicinity of entry level 12 year old malts. Average consumers would opt for the single malt over this wonderful blended malt. Hence, Green label suffered poor sales. Who knows the reason(s) for Diageo to discontinue this great scotch whisky. Probably economics is at the heart of the matter. Higher profit margins in blended whisky than in blended malts.

    I just wish Diageo had put the same level of marketing dollars into this great scotch that they used to support Blue Label (which I always felt was not as good).

    In any case, I will start hoarding this remarkable whisky!

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