Celebrating Father's Day With Johnnie Walker
Even when dad's not available I like to spend Father's Day with the family – the Johnnie Walker family. They have a Scotch for every occasion, and, as it happens, every dad as well, with five varieties ranging in age, complexity and exclusivity. Having tried (and tried and tried) every blended Scotch on the market over the years, I long ago settled on JW as the best; judging by the Royal Warrant on the bottle, that famous souse the Queen of England agrees. For one thing, it's the only one that's got any real peat to it, and of course we've always been fond of the "Striding Man" on the bottle; We like to think he's striding off in search of a damn drink after a long day's foxhunting, hoping the family is lined up waiting at home. Let's meet 'em:
The classic Red Label (which dates from 1906) and Black Label (1909) are old standbys, of course. We like the former with soda and the latter on the rocks. Originally known as Extra Special Old Highland Whisky in the 1800s, Red Label ($23) is a combination of 30 spicy, smoky malts, such as Talisker, and lingering, lighter grains. It has notes of clove, butterscotch, spice and vanilla, with a robust, smoky character and a warm finish.
Black Label ($34) contains as many as 40 whiskies all aged in oak casks for at least 12 years, including Talisker and Cardhu. The result is a rich combination of dry smokiness, with malt and peat overtones balanced by hints of cedar and fruit, with trademark dark chocolate and vanilla notes.
On to more recent innovations: Green, Gold and Blue Label. Green Label ($60) is actually a blend of 15-year-old Island and Speyside malt whiskies. Notes of spice, green fruit and nutmeg, are accompanied by an aroma of green apples and pears with a hint of sandalwood.
Gold Label ($85) is crafted from blend of 15 different whiskies, each aged at least 18 years. It's a very mellow Scotch, with a creamy, honeyed body and a slight caramel and vanilla nose. Some folk like to freeze it for 24 hours to release its true character as the whisky warms in the mouth.
Finally Blue Label ($220) is the ultimate luxury blend. Many of the rare whiskies come from distilleries that no longer exist, hence the pricetag. The nose has hints of smoke, sherry and fruitcake, while the body is soft and mellow with sherry, honey and vanilla notes married with peat and dark chocolate. The bee's knees.