Tasting: WWII-era 1930s/1940s Johnnie Walker Red Label

WWII-era 1930s/1940s Johnnie Walker Red LabelDram data:
Distillery: blend
Bottler: –
Distilled: –
Bottled: 1930s/1940s
Age: –
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 40?%

There are two reasons to visit the Limburg Whisky fair – the first one is the people you meet, the second one is the whisky that’s available there. This Johnnie Walker Red label, bottled in the 30’s or 40’s (let me know if you can narrow it down further), is an example for the latter. Never having tried an old version of this extremely well-known blend I thought it would be a good investment of 10€ for a 2cl sample… let’s give it a try, shall we?

Tasting notes:
 light amber
The nose reminds me of an old mechanic’s workshop. A concrete floor soiled with several decades worth of oil and grease and freshly spilt cherry syrup mixed with extra dry vermouth. Lots of vermouth, actually. Perhaps the tiniest hint of smoke? Alcohol is noticeable on the nose, albeit only slightly. This has absolutely nothing in common with the modern variant, except for being on the “light and easy” side of things but let’s keep in mind that this has been sitting around for decades in unknown conditions and I’m lacking comparison.  Let’s move on to the palate! 

Much better than the nose! Surprisingly rich and full on the arrival, almost oily! Taste-wise it’s not too dissimilar, we’ve got the oil-soiled concrete floor, the cherry syrup, the vermouth, with added gentian and … dried lovage? Not too complex but surprisingly rich while being noticeably “old”. In a good way.

The medium-long finish is close to the palate – rather thick upon swallowing (for a standard blend, that is), with even a bit of sweetness coming through (perhaps the cherry syrup?). Fades away gracefully, which you often don’t notice with modern blends…

Verdict: Liquid history. Literally. It would be interesting to know how much of the aroma and taste is still “original” and how much has changed with storage over the decades. The nose was rather “meh” at first but palate and finish were decidedly pleasant, rather good, even. Glad to have tried it – now I need to find more to compare this initial experience to…

Score: 78/100
(Nose: 70 Palate: 82 Finish: 82)

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