Wednesday, January 9, 2013
New release - Johnnie Walker 'The Spice Road'
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.