Serious Eats: Drinks
New Johnnie Walker Platinum Hits the US
Diageo released Johnnie Walker Platinum in the UK a few months back, and now the new whisky is available stateside as well. The new bottling carries an 18-year age statement: that is, it's made with a blend of single malt and grain whiskies that have all aged at least 18 years. The suggested retail is $110: about half of the price of the brand's high-end Johnnie Walker Blue.
So how does the Johnnie Walker Platinum compare to the ultra-premium Blue—and the popular $35 Black? We tasted them side by side to see.
Many of you are probably pretty familiar with Johnnie Walker Black. It has a scent of sweet caramel and dried fruit, and the flavor is sweet, too, like Honey Smacks cereal with a little vanilla mixed in, and a hint of charred peat on the finish to dry it out. How does the Platinum, at more than 3 times the price, compare? The scent of Johnnie Walker Platinum is deeper, warmer, and slightly less sweet. The whiskey is creamy on your tongue and better-integrated, with a richer texture and more focused flavor. There's a touch of orange-oil here, and a lingering herbal finish: think bay leaf and thyme on whole grain bread. It's not the most interesting whiskey we've ever tried, but it's definitely likable, and likely to appeal even to those who don't drink whiskey frequently.
How does it fare against the pricey Blue? Johnnie Walker Blue doesn't have an age statement—the claim is that it's a blend of rare whiskys (including some from distilleries that have since closed.) Compared to the Platinum, the Blue is a bit brighter and grassier, supported by cedar and cinnamon-spice. Its hallmark, though, is smooth texture—it's all about pristine polish, not unusual character.
Is the Johnnie Walker Platinum (or its pricier Blue brother) for you? It comes down to what you're looking for. Both of these whiskys are really smooth-drinking stuff—creamy and silky as butter, with nothing harsh or aggressive or pungent. But many folks want more interesting whiskey at either price point, and those people will likely be happier with single-malt options.
Samples provided for review consideration.