Earlier this fall I wrote (and spoke on video at length) about the end of Johnnie Walker Gold Label and the rise of its replacement, Platinum Label. What was a bit murky at the time was where Gold Label Reserve might fit in with all of this. Formerly a non-U.S., limited release product, Gold Label Reserve has been an oddity for years, particularly while the (non-Reserve) Gold Label was also available.
And now we have the answer: Gold Label Reserve is coming to America, at least for a limited time. Also, you’ll want to dig the bottle: It’s opaque, not transparent, giving the impression of a gold ingot stood on its side.
Gold Label Reserve is, like (nearly) all Johnnie Walker, a blended whisky, though the company offers few details about its components. The company does reveal it includes “casks of Clynelish,” but that’s about it.
I still have the original Gold Label on hand, so as I did with Platinum Label, I put the two spirits side by side. Some thoughts follow.
On the nose, there’s lots of fresh fruit and sherry to spare, a sharp aroma with immediate appeal and a light nuttiness on the back end. The body follows through with more of that sherry, some nougat notes, plus a touch of graham cracker. I get hints of fresh cherry fruit, cinnamon, and honey-spiked sweet tea, all coming together in a remarkably well-balanced and easy to enjoy dram.
It’s not as malty and rich as the original Gold Label — and is overall a bit of a departure from the chewy, almost bready Johnnie Walker house style — and that’s perhaps a good thing. Gold Label Reserve is sophisticated and more refined, with both balance and an inviting finish. My only real complaint is the alcohol level: At 80 proof it doesn’t pack in quite enough of body, and the initial sharpness ultimately becomes a bit flabby in the middle. Knock this up to 92 proof and you’ve got perhaps the best blended Scotch on the market.
At $87, it’s expensive for a blend, but is priced about in line with the old Gold Label. Of course, you’re getting a brick of gold in the bargain, so what are you moaning about?