Johnnie Walker Red (1970s)

Thanks to /u/ScotchGuyTo for sharing this dram.

Whisky pops up in history here and there. Let me be clear: History is filled with more important things than distilled beer that ensures we get giggly while tasting different interesting flavours. However, what is interesting, when looking at important figures who had major impacts, they drank heavily.

It’s no surprise that Sinatra drinking Jack Daniels made it popular. Winston Churchill enjoyed Johnnie Walker, particularly Red and Black. Granted the man was a notorious drunk, and also drank port, wine, champagne, and from the sound of it, just about anything with alcohol in it.

That still begs the question: This is a wartime prime minister. He’s able to afford (or have the people afford him, I don’t know the rules of booze buying in those times) high-end alcohol. So why was he drinking the entry-level Johnnie Walker whiskies?

I was lucky enough to have a friend pour me a dram from Johnnie Walker Red that was bottled sometime between 1970 and 1972. Yes, this is a different age than what Churchill drank, however, it’s closer to then than now, so it’ll give me an idea of why someone wouldn’t attempt to buy something better.

The rumours of the blend ingredients go as follows: In the early 70s, the blend was more malt and less grain. The grain itself was older and well-developed.

By the 80s, like many things, it got worse. In 10 years the makeup of the whisky was closer to what we drink now, with more grain than malt and younger of everything. That’s about as much as I’m comfortable with saying, as I only heard the rumour down the grapevine.

But does it matter? Well, the proof is in the pudding, so let’s see if Churchill was drinking swill or swilling drink, shall we?

Price: $300 USD at Auction

Region: Blend

Estimated Vintage: Between 1970 and 1972

Abv: 40%

Colour: 10YR 8/10

Nose: Passionfruit, bread, corn syrup, honey

Immediately different. I’m not going to lie: You can check my review of Johnnie Walker Red from a few years ago and I was not kind. It’s rough on the nose and I make a terrible face while sipping it.

This on the other hand? This is tropical. This is simple, though inviting. It is light, but you actually want to write about it. I actually have to open up my book after nosing it, as I (wrongly) expected nothing great.

Taste: Jalapeno, honey, cotton candy, herbal

It’s hot, but in a vegetal way. Floral, some raw sugar is there, some indistinct herbal notes. I’m actually enjoying it. The heat doesn’t even through me off (take that Elsa).

Finish: Honey, gravel, melon, cereal, cream

The finish is actually quite nice. Fruity, some rough earth elements that are kinda sweet but otherwise normal for whisky, cereal, cream… I keep looking for a rougher, bad element and not finding one…

Perhaps that says more about me than the whisky.

Conclusion: Why in the hell can’t we have this anymore? I get it: Whisky is in higher demand, rich people need higher ROI for shares and therefore quality has taken a hit for higher profits, but… I mean, come on, this was actually nice to sip on!

I can understand why someone may sit back with a cheaper blend if this was it. It’s better than a lot of the blends on the market, or at least on par with some of the nicer ones coming out. There’s some really interesting mix of flavours here if they are a bit simple.

How about this: Make up a new colour, and bring this back out. Or don’t make up a colour! This can be Johnnie Walker Pink, and I’ll be in the front of the line ready to buy it! Hell, I hate wearing pink (it’s because I’m a paler person and don’t feel the colour suits me), but I’d buy one of those terrible pink shirts that white guys try to pull off (and fail) if I got this on the regular.


Scotch review #1239, Blend review #101, Whisky Network review #1889

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