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Showing posts with label spice road. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spice road. Show all posts

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Path to Gold: Johnnie Walker Explorers' Club Gold Route

Like that regular visit to the doctor, every year, Scotch whisky gets a bit of a health check from the folks at the SWA: assessing its international performance, growth, uncharacteristic hotspots and areas of concern.

And like a thoroughbred race horse, (but not 'Seabass', judging by my crumpled betting slip from Saturday's Grand National) Scotch appears to be in an even ruder health than it was this time last year.  Exports are up once again with the 2012 figures showing the the Scotch whisky business worth a staggering £4.3 billion, an increase of 87% over the last decade.  New markets such as South America have seen increases as much as 14% since last year's figures and the USA sits at the top of the whisky fountain with imports breaking through the £700 million mark for the first time.

Despite this, the volume of Scotch whisky exports actually declined by 5%, demonstrating that consumers are looking more towards higher end, luxury and premium products amongst their blends and single malts.

Hot off the back of such positivity comes the news from Diageo, that they are investing substantially in building a brand new (as yet un-named) distillery in Teaninich with the capacity to produce up to 13 million litres of spirit, alongside expansion of the existing Teaninich and Mortlach distilleries to practically double capacity. Heady days indeed. This is a clear indication that we are living in an era where Scotch (TM) is as industrious and as bankable a commodity as one is likely to find.

Of course, some people have a hard time with the fact that whisky has been taken out of the hands of the privileged few and pushed outwards to the masses, which is of course an absurd sentiment.  Yes, we're no longer going to find 1970's single cask Ardbegs for the price of KFC Bargain Bucket, but travel virtually anywhere around the globe and you'll find a decent whisky behind the bar.  To be a continued global success, whisky needs to keep looking forward, not reminiscing about the 'good old days', with wizened hands clawing onto a single cask Port Ellen, bottle number 1 of 12.  
As Oliver Klimek recently wrote on his excellent Dramming blog, the whisky business does not exist simply to provide whisky geeks with single cask bottlings. To be frank, without the likes of internationally renowned blends, it would simply cease to exist at all.  

So onto one of those blends.  Johnnie Walker is perhaps the most ubiquitous whisky, if not brand name in the world.  The recent activity in the Walker camp - from the introduction of Platinum, to the extra smoky Double Black, alongside the Director's Blends have demonstrated that the brand continues to walk at a particularly spritely pace.  Now more recently, the Striding Man has decided to take a sojourn abroad with the release of the Explorers' Club Collection; a trio of bottlings launched exclusively into Global Travel Retail, now a lucrative market all of its own right.  We reviewed the inaugural bottling, Spice Road, at Christmas and at a shade under £30 were hugely impressed by its balance of spice, seasoned oak, dried fruit and classic Walker smoke.   So when the next bottling, Gold Route hit the shelves we were intrigued.  Would the thread of Walker excellence remain? The price is approximately twice that of the Spice Route at around £60 or $95, so expectations are high, all things considered. 

Johnnie Walker - Gold Route - 40% - 1 Litre

Nose: Soft fudge, freshly sliced ginger, a lighter sooty note coupled with a touch of medicinal peat,  vanilla sponge cake and fondant icing.  With a little water, a more creamy coconut note emerges, alongside a welcoming gentle woodsmoke and some very subtle orchard fruit notes, tinned pineapple and condensed milk. Very good indeed. 

Palate:  Sooty and a little grainy at first, with some tingling liquorice notes, a malted cereal sweetness a vanilla fudge creaminess, some mint humbugs and zesty lemons.  In fact, the mouthfeel is quite sharp and zesty, the further in you travel.  Some lingering smoke on the death rounds out a feisty palate indeed. With water, the fruitiness starts to come to the fore, with icing sugar-dusted red apple, a touch of  Juicy Fruit chewing gum and an aniseed ball, thrown in for good measure.  

Finish: Lemon zest, a touch of anise and a lingering mintiness nestle alongside something slightly grainy. 

Overall:  Whilst this isn't lacking in stature, in my opinion it perhaps lacks some the more direct notes offered by the Spice Road.  It has some subtle spice of its own, which sits alongside the creaminess and definitely benefits from a few drops of water to really coax the beast of complexity from its cave.   The question is, would one buy a bottle of this, over two bottles of Spice Road?   I'm not sold yet, but one suspects that like life's more challenging constitutionals, there is more to this walk than first meets the eye...

Friday, 14 December 2012

18 Under 30 Part 10: Johnnie Walker Spice Road

Ok then... continuing our odyssey into the reasonably priced tipples you should consider trying this Christmas, we bring you a new little ditty from the world of Travel Retail.  As more people head homewards this weekend for family festivities, the number of folks passing through our airports escalates - meaning that there's usually plenty of offers on and interesting drams to try at the friendly neighbourhood 'duty free' whisky retailers the other side of the security gates.

As we fly fairly regularly from either Gatwick or Heathrow airport, we're no strangers to the World Of Whiskies shop. In fact, as whisky retailers go, they're fairly hard to resist.  Last month we bought you news and tasting notes of a brand new peated Glenfiddich, which was released as a World Of Whiskies exclusive.  Next up, as part of our 18 Under 30, it seems that Johnnie Walker have entered the fray of Travel Retail exclusives with the launch of their new Spice Road blend.

Part one (The Explorers' Club Collection) of three different blends, Spice Road, has (unsurprisingly) aimed to draw together an altogether spicier blend, paying homage to the Walker family's travels across the globe, including the Spice Road of Europe and Asia, the Royal Route between Europe and Persia and the Gold Route of the Americas and the Caribbean.   Expect the latter two 'routes' to be released later next year, with varying price points. But for now, Spice Road is available here for £29.99 

Johnnie Walker - Spice Road - Blended Whisky - 40%  - 1 Litre

Nose: Classic Walker notes of waxy floral aromas, some furniture polish, swathes of smoke, but something altogether spicier. Dried mixed citrus peel, a hint of anise, a some cinnamon and a rich dark demerara sugar.  Inviting, rich and very seasonal. 

Palate:  The smoke is very pronounced and up front, with a burnt bonfire note mixing smoothly with a dry, oaky mouthfeel.  The anise, liquorice and cinnamon all present themselves alongside some tart green apple peel.   An extremely bold palate and perhaps one of the darkest, woodiest Walker blends we've tried.  

Finish:  Lingering sherry steeped oak, malt extract, charcoal/soot and dry cassia bark coat the palate.  Very lengthy indeed.

Overall: For a premium blend coming in under £30, this is almost certainly extremely good value, considering you get a litre for your money.  The balance is drier and richer than other Walker blends and as a result we can see this being ideally suited for sinking over ice next to a roaring open fire. And if it happens to snow wherever your are, even better...