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March 11, 2021 (edited December 20, 2023)
4.5 out of 5 stars
So I finally got back home after a 13+ hour drive and a fair time away. What better occasion to try this rare and exciting dram?
N: The nose is really rich, but with a very unusual character. It's a tremendously smooth nose as well. It isn't peat, sherry, or bold malt driving the richness. If any of those, it's closest to malt from a very funky still, but it has this rich, sweet, slightly tart apple cider and apricot scent. There's a dash of butter-heavy caramel cooked to 350F, a little bit of some sort of dry floral note (like jasmine perhaps?) and also something just a bit spicy.
The bigger (but harder to describe part) is the underlying funkiness. Mixed in with all of that, I get a little bit of grass, a kind of moderated smokiness, and a faint hint of something vegetal. All put together, it vaguely reminds me of Springbank.
Side-by-side, I stand by my comparison with Springbank 10 (from a ludicrously oxidized bottle). The Springbank cranks up the barnyard, whereas this has sort of an oily richness and more fruit. As it breathes, the fruitiness in this is diminished. A bit of dry Clynelish waxiness comes out.
P: This is bold and very interesting. The fruit really comes through, but it's less sweet and citrusy than I'd expected it to be. The fruit is more floral with a light layer of vanilla, tending even toward mineral (yet somehow still a very full flavor). There's this rich, lightly smoky, faintly grassy, kind of bitter layer in here that balances it out nicely and adds this really interesting funk that I'm having trouble placing. It's sort of like a kind of oily peat, but it's really mellow. If that's the Brora character, I suppose it makes sense that it's so mellow at this point seeing as the distillery has been closed for nearly 40 (!!) years now.
This dram is certainly less smoky than Johnnie Walker Green and it's also more subtle and smooth. I figured I had to compare them because I had the Green on hand, but I think that this is more like the Blue, then maybe Black or 18 (none of which I have available).
There's a bit of that mustiness that I expect from the Blue as well, but it's a bit bolder here, better developed, and less like wet cardboard. There's also this sense of presence that I found missing in the regular Blue. The way that oily, funky flavor fills out the body and balances the fruity side of this is excellent. The more I have of this, the more the oily funk stands out, while the fruit falls back, but remains to balance the dram out. There might just be a faint hint of that Clynelish waxiness in here.
F: The fruits largely disappear, though a light floral, vaguely mineral sweetness remains. The general richness persists here and I get a light oiliness on my tongue for quite a while even as the other flavors dissipate. The oiliness combined with the sweetness at this point does give a faint indication of buttery caramel.
- Conclusion -
There's a really unique flavor going on here and I dig it. It balances really well with the other aspects of this whisky and creates a very enjoyable, subtle complexity.
I really enjoy the transition from fruity to oily and robust as it moves into the finish. It's a great journey to be taking and it's balanced throughout.
Also, I'd be remiss in reviewing a variation on Johnnie Walker Blue if I didn't mention how delightfully smooth it is. The oiliness really helps to combat any wateriness that might otherwise come with the smoothness. I would have guessed that this was 40-43% based on the smoothness, but not in a bad way.
This is easy to sip and fun to contemplate. It's a definite standout among the many whiskies I've tried. Without getting into direct comparisons too much, I'd put this ahead of my heavily oxidized Springbank 10, which was a 19 when I opened it, but may now be a 20. This is without doubt a huge upgrade from the regular Johnnie Walker Blue. I've never understood the appeal of that one considering the price, but if they put this stuff in that bottle, I'd be right onboard.
Still, although this is a lot better than the regular Johnnie Walker Blue Label, I don't think that this is a massive leap up from my bottle of Springbank 10. It gets really hard to rate when I get up to scores in this range because I don't have many others I've rated this high. This is going to land somewhere in the 19 to 22 range.
After quite a bit of soul-searching, I think that 19 is clearly too low since that's what I gave Springbank 10, but I kind of prefer Sprinkbank 12 at 22. That puts this in the 20 to 21 range. I've gone back and forth through all of my 20s and 21s to try to find the right spot for this and the thing is that it really could fit in either bucket. Instinctively, I felt like this was a 20. I love its complexity, but as with many blends it sometimes seems a bit too subtle. Looking at my list though, I think this is a little more similar in quality to the median member of the 21 bucket than the 20 bucket (and despite all of the subtlety, it certainly isn't muddled), so I'm going with a 21.
Many thanks to @PBMichiganWolverine for sharing this one!
December 26, 2020 (edited December 20, 2023)
4.75 out of 5 stars
It’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7!
Dec. 26, 2020
So when @PBMichiganWolverine offered me a sample of “JW Blue Ghost and Rare Brora” I had no idea what any of those words meant. To me, “JW” is a prefix for “Dant” and “rare” typically means I’m going to be disappointed. I didn’t know until just now checking this in, that this was a Johnnie Walker product, effectively making this a blind taste test. I think that was optimal for me, because although I have never tried any Johnnie Walker whiskies, for some reason I thought Johnnie Walker stuff was garbage. “The Jim Beam of Scotland.” I have no idea where I got this prejudice, and perhaps my preconceptions are still accurate generally speaking. Yet I know now that I was wrong at least when it comes to this whisky: my first JW product. Big thanks to PBMW for the JW!
Nose has grape musk, chalk dust, lemon, powdered sugar. Later I also found tangerine, strawberry, and chai tea, but those initial notes were more prevalent.
Body has watermelon, lemonade, cherry, green apple. There’s milk, cream. All the things I like. The more concerning nose notes (musk, dust, chai) aren’t present here. This is simply juicy and delicious. It’s thicker than I’d expect given those notes, so I suppose a fruit smoothie is the overarching theme.
Finish holds on to some tart fruit, both in feel and taste, but also fades away quickly with pure sugar. Small bite on the finish, which is always a plus. I’d say serrano pepper. When you admit that fact, you get a fresh veggie taste with it, like a bell pepper. Delicious.
This is really really good. I’m having trouble finding fault with it, but something is holding me back from calling it perfect. Maybe that’s the JW effect. Still, even at the price point I’m seeing online, I’d pick up one of these if it showed up on a shelf.
‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!