No age statement, Travel Retail exclusive, released 2013, 40% ABV, American Oak
Late last year my father was given this handsomely presented Johnnie Walker for his birthday (along with two other JW’s – people, get a bit more creative with your whisky selections!)
I didn’t know a single thing about it, so I hit the ole’ interwebz to do a bit of research and reading to get a better understanding of what I was about to taste.
Launched around March 2013, The Gold Route is the second release in the Johnnie Walker Explorers’ Club Collection – Trade Route Series (what a mouthful). It followed on from 2012’s The Spice Road and preceded the final release in the series, The Royal Silk Route which came out in October last year.
A series of three duty free/travel retail exclusives, the Trade Route Series pays homage to the travelling heritage of the John Walker & Sons agents who journeyed the world, bringing the Johnnie Walker brand to over 120 countries by the 1920s.
It’s a well-presented whisky, that’s for sure, and it’s not hard to see why someone travelling through an airport would be attracted to it.
This particular expression pays tribute to The Gold Route (or The Route of Gold), which runs through Central America, the Andean mountains and along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The gold to come out of this region was used in some of Europe’s most well known churches and palaces and also provided some of the wealth on which cities like Rio and Lisbon were built.
Not surprisingly, Johnnie Walker’s owners, Diageo, were able to put together a pretty impressive marketing campaign for this release (and indeed the whole Explorers’ Club Collection).
There was a full photographic series featuring evocative images (such as the one above), elaborate store displays in airports around the world and a youtube video for each expression in the series
Although it was likely dreamt up by a clever marketing department, the whole celebration of travel and trade theme ties in rather nicely with the fact that it was only available in travel retail. I sometimes wonder how many purchasers would actually make that connection for themselves, but in any case, I noticed it and thought it was a nice touch.
What Master Blender, Jim Beveridge, says
“On the nose, there is an immediate wave of an exotic mix of bananas, mango and pitaya, complemented by a hint of vanilla sweetness. On first sip, the palate embarks on a journey that is as distinct and magnificent as the vistas of Latin America: tantalising flavours, a perfect blend of fruitiness with hints of pineapples, guava, passion fruit and raisins, all balanced perfectly by deep charred peaty notes, in keeping with the signature bold and smoky JOHNNIE WALKER flavour”
Here’s what I think
Sweet peat, a few meaty sherry notes, quite sooty and malty with hints of vanilla and some light coastal notes in there. A few months later, much softer and sweeter, really faint underlying smoke (almost completely gone), more of a zesty lemon tang kind of note, a touch of honey and some papaya hidden in there somewhere.
Despite the comments above, I would still call this a light-weight nose. Not overly heavy or deep (if that makes any sense).
First impression is that it’s thin and has a really soft entry. A decent amount of medicinal peat, tart orange marmalade, very little heat and very little spice. A few months later, quite a bit sweeter than I remember, hints of raisin, very little-to-no peat on the palate and a bit grainy.
Initially it was much peatier and smokier than any JW expression I’ve tried before, but that seems to have faded dramatically.
Initially quite mild, with very mild mouth warmth and some residual peat. Little-to-no spice or oak. After a few months, still a very mild finish in terms of length and warmth, but much more drying spice and some earthy/woody notes. Pencil shavings? (no, I’ve never eaten pencil shavings, but I imagine this is what they’d taste like!)
I must admit, I was somewhat surprised with this release (in a pleasant kind of way). I’ve never been overly thrilled with the Johnnie Walker’s I’ve tried to date. Not because of the whole ‘blend stigma’, but because I’ve always just found them a bit flat for my liking and lacking in any kind of complexity.
This on the other hand does actually have some degree of complexity to it. It’s got a rather interesting nose and the palate leaves you curious as to its make-up.
I do have to say though, the nose and palate on this changed dramatically between the time the bottle was first opened and month or two later. I’m not sure which nose I prefer, but the bottle has lost almost all of the smoky-peat notes on both the nose and palate and is generally a bit sweeter.
Overall, it’s still too thin, young and grainy for my liking, but it’s a pretty solid offering. I know big one litre bottles are a travel retail thing, but for someone who enjoys their whisky neat, I would rather have seen this in a 700ml bottle, bottled at 43% ABV, instead of one litre at 40% ABV. I think that would have gone some way to helping the thin mouth-feel and short finish.
The Gold Route retails for around AU $90 in Sydney, which isn’t too bad and I’m sure it’ll sell quite well.