Ultimate Beverage Challenge 94 points - The nose is complex and playful with sweet malt, roasted nuts, smoky grains, clove, cardamom, and pepper. The palate is generous being nearly explosive with waves of malt whisky notes, treacle, toffee, and butterscotch, with a firm touch of pepper. Beaut (Mar 2012)
American fans of Johnnie Walker Scotches who have been green with envy of those abroad who could buy the company's Pure Malt 15 year old whisky will now just be in the Green Label, as the spirit with a label of the same color is known. For the first time it's being imported to these shores. The whisky had been available only overseas or at duty-free in the past decade. It represents a style of whisky that is somewhere between single malts and blends. Pure Malt is a marriage of different single malts, but doesn't include any grain whiskies as a blended Scotch would.
Sometimes called a vatted malt, such whisky has not been well known in the United States. Johnnie Walker Pure Malt may change all that. The Green Label jumps out like a single malt, but then takes the palette on a flavor safari that no one malt could travel, commuting back and forth from smoky, peaty Islay to elegant, floral Speyside. Unlike a blend, which typically will steer its components toward subtlety, the Pure Malt always maintains the edge of its pot-stilled parts. This makes an interesting taste exercise as you endeavor to pick out the single malts, which include Talisker from the Isle of Skye, Caol Ila of Islay, and Linkwood and Cragganmore from the Speyside Highlands. The nose is honeyed and perfumed, with cake icing, peat and a bit of cheese. The honey and smoke continue on the palate, joined by licorice as the cheese hint turns to sharp Stilton. The long finish is buttered toast with marmalade.
Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge says the challenge of Green Label was to have a wide flavor spectrum that didn't clash and a whisky that was "at heart a Walker malt. That doesn't always work. We had to introduce different kinds of wood." The Islay whiskies were aged in American oak to best let the distilleries, character show through, and some Speysides rested in European oaks, he reports. "It's all about making the flavors stand out more and be more vibrant. That allows us to create flavors that aren't possible from one malt alone."