Diageo Reverse

A few years back we heard the news that Diageo was discontinuing the Johnnie Walker Green and Gold expressions (arguably the two best in the portfolio), at least in the incarnations we were once familiar with. The Gold 18 year would soon become the Gold Reserve (a non-age statement blend), likely because the blended whisky giant didn't want to (or couldn't due to supply issues) keep diverting stocks of 18 year old Clynelish into the formula. The 15 year old Green would disappear because supplies of 15 year old Talisker, Cragganmore, and Caol Ila might be better served in their own proprietary labels . Don't quote me on any of this, as I don't know with any certainty why Diageo did what they did. That's just what I assumed due to what I was observing within the industry.

Last month, however, we were told by our Diageo reps that the Walker Green was back in stock. Really? I thought that was gone forever? Apparently not! The Walker Green 15 year is indeed available again, albeit without the gift box and a bottle that more resembles the Johnnie Black. "The price is the same, but how is the quality?" I thought to myself. Was it still made from the same four distilleries (Linkwood being the fourth), or did Diageo discontinue the label briefly to change up the formula? If they did switch things up, would it even matter? "As long as it tastes good, and the cost matches the quality, I'd definitely be interested in selling the Green again," I told David OG when we chatted. Both David and I were curious about the turn of events, so we went out and got ourselves a bottle.

The result? Delicious. Still a great deal at $59.99 (regardless of the formula) with plenty of supple fruit, a nice heavy weight on the palate, and just a hint of smoke and peat on the finish. I'd still choose this over a number of other single malt whiskies in this price point. I'll have to reach out to Diageo to get the actual scoop on what happened, but for now we've got the Johnnie Green back on the shelf in all of our stores. While I'll definitely be handing our customers a bottle of Faultline Blended over the Black Label, I'll be more than happy to put the Green Label back into the hands of many a K&L shopper.

After weeks of delays due to the Oakland port situation, the 2014 Lagavulin Distiller's Edition also showed up. I finally popped a bottle today and dove in to the latest batch. It's easily the most reserved and graceful version of the DE I've yet tasted. The entry is soft and supple, and there's still plenty of classic Lagavulin flavor on the finish (peat, smoke, all that), but it's very well balanced. It's subtle, which isn't a word I'd use to describe Lagavulin normally, but in this case the term fits. That's not to say it's muted, or mild, but rather graceful and elegant—again, not words I typically use for intensly smoky Islay whiskies. The peat is clean and vibrant, but it doesn't overpower the flavor or completely dominate the palate. I'm going to go back in again later. I'm intrigued.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll