Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New release - Johnnie Walker 'The Spice Road'

Just before Christmas we announced that the world's largest whisky brand had released the first in a new series, which will be exclusive to travel retail - Johnnie Walker The Spice Road.  The series is called The Explorers' Club Collection in reference to John Walker's pioneering travel around the world to establish markets for his whiskies back in the 1800s.  The Spice Road is the first in a sub-series named the Trade Route Series - the whiskies are inspired by the cultural richness that can be found on three of the world's great trade routes.

The brand is named after John Walker, a man who owned a small grocery shop in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock in the 1820s. In those days most whisky sold commercially was a blend. John Walker (or Johnnie to his friends) learnt the skills required to create a commercially successful whisky and the rest is history. Other famous blended whiskies such as Bell's and Teacher's have similar background stories, and like Johnnie Walker are named after their founders.

Walker's early blends were made in small quantities for local clients. The success of the brand took off during Victorian times when it was heavily exported around the expanding British Empire. The brand and its famous walking man logo are embedded in world culture and pioneered sports sponsorship in the 1960s with involvement in a Grand Prix motor racing team and other major events, especially in golf. The Johnnie Walker brand is currently owned by multi national drinks company Diageo.

Johnnie Walker The Spice Road has a recommended retail price of $43/€36.90/£26 and has been available in travel retail stores across Europe, the Middle East and Australia since early December. Other global travel retail markets will follow in January/February 2013. The second and third releases in the Trade Routes Series - The Gold Route and The Royal Route will appear, again through the travel retail sector, later in 2013.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden amber and the nose is immediately sweet with lovely aromas of toffee and caramel at the forefront.  These are quickly joined by some soft dried fruit, especially sultanas, raisin and a hint of apricot.  With time some malted barley notes develop, as does a slightly musty background smokiness.  There are also hints of dark chocolate and nutmeg.

On the palate, this is initially surprising - the nose makes you think that it will be soft and gentle, but it begins with some gripping, drying wood spices (think of cinnamon especially) and is much smokier. This smoke has an earthy feel with a slightly acrid edge to it.  Through these elements, the whisky is pleasantly light and the woody, spicy smokiness softens with time.  This reveals notes of dark caramel, raisins, milk chocolate, toasted almonds and spiced candied orange.  The sweetness also increases with time, driven by notes of honey, vanilla and barley sugar.

The sweetness continues in to the finish, which is of decent length, with prominent notes of toffee and raisins.  The smokiness and spices then begin to increase - the smoke is again slightly musty and earthy, with the wood spices reminiscent of cinnamon in particular.  It finishes with a mouth watering dryness that leaves a slightly bitter taste right at the end.

What's the verdict?
Our first review and tasting notes of 2013 has presented a lovely whisky to us to kick the year off.  The aromas on the nose are particularly pleasing, followed by a palate with decent depth and complexity.  Some may find the palate slightly more challenging, especially the bitter note right at the end.  The Spice Road offers what the name suggests - plenty of woody spice.  But it also offers much more and is good value for money.  We recommend trying it next time that you are passing through an airport.


Anonymous said...

Has anyone had an allergic reaction to this whiskey? Swollen lips and rash?

Anonymous said...

No, but what I think is this:I am very disappointed with this whisky. It is absolutely not complex or spicy as the description alleges. The nose is very closed. The taste is one-dimensional - a malty caramel taste (maybe from the added caramel?). The smoke is very slight and you'll be struggling to get any cinnamon or spices in the mouth. There is nothing memorable or distinctive about this whisky. The only redeeming feature is that it is quite smooth. A very boring drink with a finish that drops like a fall off a cliff.

mancho90 said...

I'm very disagree with both comments. Maybe you must stop to eat certain food that are affecting your taste. This is not the finest scotch that you can fins, but as the article said, is a great value for the money. The article is fair and very clear. I liked and very pleasant to the palate.

Anonymous said...

its a good whiskey to drink a bottle or two with your friend...drinks good...its not the finest out there, but its very good for leisure.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a very good whiskey.

What i taste is not necessarily what someone else tastes. That's why I say buy what you like, not what others like.

Anonymous said...

Picked one bottle from duty free while on travel. Very disappointed, this is the weakest Johnie Walker whisky I have tasted to date. There is nothing positive to write about, never been this disappointed with a scotch whiskey.

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of JW at all until i tried this in Aruba, IMO and being a single malt drinker this was better than any JW out there and that is y i bought it....What is the reason they aren't selling this in the USA?

Anonymous said...

seems to have a high percentage of grain to me. doesn't deliver the punch I expect from a JW blend.
I don't see any age statement....assume there's a reason for that - much better value to stick with Black 12YO in my opinion.

Unknown said...

I love this stuff, I like a peaty scotch, and while I'll concede it is not a traditional peat flavour, I love the smokiness of of this scotch. If I had to say anything negative, it would be that the flavour isn't long lasting. All in all good value for money.

Petros said...

hmmm.. after reading all the above comments it seems that all of you are right !!

First bottle I got had all the spice and the aromas described .. I loved it !!
Second bottle I got, the taste was different, very bland and could not taste the spice and aromas.

Johnnie .. Johnnie ... there is something wrong with your quality control.

I liked the first bottle so much I am willing to buy a third bottle just to see if the spice and aromas are there again. If not I will not touch it again.