Johnnie Walker Green Label is an oddity within the brand: a blended whisky composed entirely of malt among a seas of blended whiskies that contain grain. It was almost entirely withdrawn from the market a few years back as the lineup was reformulated, much to the consternation of whisky geeks. However, this was a completely understandable move from the perspective of Diageo, which has always been focused on its blends. The teenage malt components of Green Label could much more profitably spread across their blended whiskies or held in reserve for higher margin single malts, especially those like Talisker where they were having trouble keeping up with demand.
In a sign that the whisky market may be turning a corner, Green Label was reintroduced (albeit officially only temporarily) to the American market within the last year, even more surprisingly with the age statement intact and at roughly the same price point. Reviews suggest that the latest releases are basically the same in terms of flavor as well.
This sample is the previous version, bottled in 2006. It's at 43%, almost certainly with coloring and chill filtration. Thanks for Michael for the sample.
Johnnie Walker Green Label
Nose: lovely blend of Talisker and Caol Ila peat, a touch of wood smoke, pine resin, citrus peel, significant but not overpowering oak, something savory (yeast extract?), lightly burnt wildflowers, fudge-y, honey, breakfast cereal, underlying malt. After adding a few drops of water, the oak comes to the fore and pulls out more malt and floral notes, with the peat slipping back a bit.
Taste: lots of wood and malt sweetness throughout, berries and floral notes in the background, oak, sherry, and peat rise briefly near the back, then fade into herbal caramel. After dilution, the sweetness become smoother, with the floral notes becoming stronger at the back, and the oak waits until later to emerge.
Finish: caramel, light oak, pineapple, berry, sherry, and floral residue
As Curt of All Things Whisky noted, this blended whisky is not so much the components coming together to form a harmonious whole, but closer to a display of each in turn. While that's not a knock on its quality, the seams are clearly visible. The main elements are Linkwood and Cragganmore, two unpeated Speysiders, and Talisker and Caol Ila, two peated island whiskies. Each brings its own character to the mix and there's good evolution in the aromas and flavors. Even if those elements aren't necessarily integrated, they are balanced. Kind of like Highland Park, this ticks the 'a little bit of everything' box that makes it an enjoyable drink that doesn't require a lot of attention. It's easily worth the upgrade from Black Label as the all-malt construction gives it a lot more depth. So while there are comparably priced single malts that I would pick over Green Label, it's well worth having in your cabinet for less meditative evenings.