Johnnie Walker, which has been on a tear as it updates its brand lineup (starting with the discontinuation of Green Label and the launch of Double Black), is at it again. This time, it’s a straight up replacement: Gold Label, an 18 year old blend, has been killed off. In its place, Platinum Label, a different 18 year old blend… that costs another $35. Well, platinum is more expensive than gold, isn’t it?
Like other JW bottlings, Platinum Label is a blend of malt and grain whiskies, this one drawn from 20 to 25 different distilleries, all of it 18 years old and up. It is a permanent addition to the lineup, replacing Gold Label forevermore. (Well, for now, anyway.)
Luckily, I still have some Gold Label on hand and, since it’s the closest analogue to Platinum Label, I had a chance to review them side by side. The approach here is shockingly similar: Gold Label was a milder, more restrained version of Black Label, and Platinum Label takes the same tact. There are some differences under the covers, though.
The nose on Platinum Label is straightforward: Clearly a Johnnie Walker product made in the house style, with a well-thought-out mix of raisins, citrus/sherry notes, and just a touch of drying smokiness on the back end. And yet it’s restrained and mild, not the forward, in-your-face experience you get with Black Label. The body opens up with a lot more character. Those raisins and citrus notes are juicier and more evident, and the woody and peaty elements in the blend come forward more clearly too, particularly on the finish. The conclusion is lightly smoky, with touches of orange oil on the tongue.
The overall effect is not dissimilar to Gold Label. The recipes are (modestly) different, but the approach is the same: Keep it easy, dial things back, make this a more delicate version of the classic Black. That is a fair way to craft a whisky, but I can’t help but wonder why I’d pay three times the price of a bottle of Black Label (and $25 more than Gold Label) for that experience.
That said, this would be a great gift if you can’t afford a bottle of Blue Label for your JW-loving pal (which isn’t really any better than Platinum Label, anyway), and I do love the revamped bottle design. Still, I’d probably drink Black Label over this any time.
B+ / $110 / johnniewalker.com
And now, for even more fun, you can check out myself, Geoff Kleinman of Drink Spirits, and Greg Mays of Simple Cocktails, dishing about Platinum for close to an hour on this badass Google Hangout video, shot this very morning. There’s lots of great information here about tasting whisky, Johnnie Walker, and our tasting notes on this specific bottling (as well as its prospects for the future). Dig in below, and try to ignore the weird thing going on with my hair.