Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label Ghost and Rare series continues its run with a new special release, this one built to showcase the grain whisky produced at Port Dundas, an iconic distillery in Glasgow that operated from 1811 to 2010. Port Dundas whiskies remain some of the oldest I’ve ever had the luxury of experiencing in person, in large part because grain whisky can be made cheaply and has enormous “staying power” in the barrel.
Naturally, there’s a lot more than Port Dundas in this blend, so I’ll let the House of Wlaker tell you some more about it all:
The Johnnie Walker team of expert whisky makers, led by Johnnie Walker Master Blender Emma Walker, handpicked the most distinctive expressions of maturing whisky from Port Dundas for this new limited edition. Walker chose a small number of distinctive, aged whiskies from the Johnnie Walker reserves, all matured in two different wood types to add depth and layers to the blend. Ghost and Rare Port Dundas features a touch of creamy vanilla notes from whiskies aged in second fill American oak casks and subtle wood spice from scotch matured in first fill highly charred American oak casks.
“Port Dundas was, in its day, one of the finest Grain Whisky distilleries in the world and the rare expressions that we have chosen from our reserves are some of the most distinctive it has ever produced. Their slow maturation allows the sweet and delicate Grain character to blossom,” Emma says. “These rare whiskies highlight the distillery character of Port Dundas, perfectly showcasing the wonderful depth of flavor that this Grain Whisky brings to Johnnie Walker Blue Label. It’s incredible character inspired us to create something truly extraordinary that pays proper tribute to the whisky makers of this storied Glasgow distillery.”
To complement the fragrant wood spice character of Port Dundas, Emma and her team hand-selected two other “ghost” whiskies from the distilleries of Cambus and Brora before combining these with other very rare scotch from five iconic distilleries. Creamy, wood notes from Port Dundas embrace the vanilla and soft smoke from the “ghost” whiskies of Cambus and original stocks of Brora. Other very rare whiskies from Cameronbridge and Glenkinchie reveal notes of spiced apples alongside Clynelish, Dailuaine and Auchroisk, bringing aromas of peaches and berries.
Let’s dive in.
The nose here is gentle, almost mild, indicative of the old grain whiskey in the blend. While well-aged Port Dundas can have a boldly sweet and dried floral character, here the cereal is more on point, with elements of white flowers and sesame playing secondary roles. Plenty of sweetness endures on the palate; it’s safe to say this is the most exuberantly sweet Blue Label release I’ve ever tried. That’s not a slight but rather a nod to the staying power of old grain whisky, here showcasing a peach note, layered with notes of ripe banana and peppery spice later in the game. I like the finish here the best, which is much sharper than the rather doughy introduction would suggest, giving those blossom and sweet fruit notes something to hang their hats on. Touches of apricot spice things up even further, making this the rare Scotch that starts off quietly and then builds to a rousing, powerful finish.
A- / $500 / johnniewalker.com