We were out for sushi at Sakura on Wickenden Street in Providence, RI, about eight years ago. There were six of us, seniors in college, good friends nearing graduation and having sake bombs to mark the occasion. After dinner we went to a bar where most of us ordered beer or Jim Beam. One guy ordered a Johnnie Walker Blue Label. His self-satisfied look betrayed a move of one-upmanship not well received among those benefiting from work-study and Pell Grants. But it was an early lesson in the way the world really works: the rich drink Blue, the working man drinks Red, and in between there are various rungs on the ladder of purchasing power. If you can make it to Double Black, you might just be able to claw your way into a bottle of Johnnie Walker Platinum Label ($110), now available in the United States.
“I remember the very first time we [Mad Men] were nominated for a Golden Globe. They didn’t televise them that year, so we all gathered in our jeans and t-shirts in a hotel in LA. We’d only been on for one year and we were nominated, but we never thought we’d win. We were sitting there in our casual clothes — and we won, and we all sat there and celebrated together, and I remember that being special. I’m sure there were all sorts of things… I’m sure Champagne bottles were popped.”
— Christina Hendricks, JW Brand Ambassador
Johnnie Walker Platinum Label is blended Scotch whisky made from a mix of malt whiskies and grain whiskies from different distilleries, aged a minimum of 18 years, and blended by Johnnie Walker Master Blender Jim Beveridge. Compared to Double Black and Blue, it’s a more measured whisky, with flavors that require a little patience to uncover. Beveridge said that the slow reveal of layers was intentional, and that the component parts were chosen to yield gradually.
“The main flavor style, the rich fruitiness, is coming from Speyside”, he said. “Then obviously it has the smoke coming from the Islay, the very traditional smokiness. The bridge is achieved through the rich dried flavor from whisky that’s been matured in sherry casks.”
We got our hands on a bottle and tasted it, sober, without any prior sake bombs and not a hint of bitterness from eight years ago. It’s a beautiful amber color and smells like raisins and dried apricots, with a little bit of smoke and spice. The same is true with taste: there is dried fruit, plus some creamy vanilla, almond, honey, citrus, smoke and gingery spice. Beveridge described some of the flavors as “end of season”, which we can get on board with, particularly as summer gives way to fall and Scotch replaces rum in the last-call tumbler.
It’s not quite all sultanas and Indian summer sunshine. The gradual yield of flavors felt a little bit restrained, and the finish came off drier and hotter than expected. Still, Platinum is a good rung to hang onto until we can throw a leg over Blue, and even if we slip a few spots down, a Scotch and soda isn’t exactly slumming it.