CHALLENGE: Chivias 18 is stepping up to the long-time king of the blended scotch heap Johnnie Walker Blue. They’re so sure they can best JWB that they sent me a bottle of it along with Chivas 18, daring me to pit them against each other. That’s some swagger, especially considering that Chivas 18 retails at somewhere around $55, while Johnnie Blue starts around $150 and goes up from there (as high as $250 in some places). Hell, I once saw it by the glass in a fancy restaurant (jealous?) for $47 ($47!!). But get this, Chivas 18 isn’t even their top-tier scotch, they also make a 25! The balls on these Chivas guys (and ladies)! So what was I going to do, not drink their free high-end scotch? Biiiiiiiitch pleeeaazze. Let’s get it on!
Round One: Nose
Chivas 18: Picking up some chocolate and caramel. I don’t know how this is possible, but it smells smooth. Before I have even tasted it, I can tell it’s going to go down easy. I get a little bit of a woody scent as well, but not much.
Johnnie Walker Blue: Smells very sweet, lots of honey and some vanilla, with a bit of dried fruit. I highly doubt that it’s going to taste this sweet, but it’s a pleasant nose.
Round Two: Palate
Chivas 18: Warm toffee and honey, with just a little bit of smoke/peat. It would be easy to go for a big peaty blend to try and seem more complex, much like some craft beer brewers who go overboard with hops and mistake big hop flavor for a fully realized product. By limiting the smokey flavors to the background, Chivas gives the other flavors a chance to be noticed and gives it a greater overall complexity. And man, the finish on this thing is unreal. It just keeps going and going and going. I like this a lot.
Johnnie Walker Blue: What? Are you sure this is a scotch that sells for over a hundred dollars? This is so…BORING. There’s a decent amount of peat (though nothing like a Lagavulin or Laphroaig), some sandlewood, and that’s about it. It’s almost structured more like a single malt, but I can tell you at least a dozen single malts (that cost a fraction of the price) that I’d rather drink before this. I’ve had every other color label of Johnnie Walker (red, black, green and even the elusive gold*) and with the exception of the black, I’d rather drink any of them over the blue. Maybe it’s because of the hype that I’m so disappointed, but this just isn’t a $150 scotch. Just to be fair, I went back a day after I first tried it and gave it another shot, drank it both straight and with a touch of filtered water…still unimpressed.
Look, I’m no Dr. Scotch over here, but I’ve been to enough formal tastings and Lord knows I’ve drank enough to fairly judge a scotch. While Johnnie Walker Blue is a fine scotch, it’s not worth the price and pales in comparison to the Chivas 18, which is a far more complex and interesting scotch.
Winner: Chivas 18
*Though I’m still working on the purple
3 Responses to “Showdown: Chivas 18 vs. Johnnie Walker Blue”
Leave a Reply
XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>
December 16, 2009 at 11:35 am
You’d rather drink Walker Red than Walker Blue? You’re talking value for dollar here, right? Cuz the Red doesn’t even taste like scotch to me. Walker Blue is vastly overpriced but once poured it’s a respectable whiskey.
December 17, 2009 at 12:09 am
I think the fact that the Red is so different from other scotches is a great thing. In fact, if the Blue and Red were switched, I’d almost understand the price more, because the Red is truly unique (though not everyones cup of tea), while the Blue is solid but uninspiring. I guess value does have something to do with it, as well as the crushing letdown after building up the Blue in my head for years.
February 17, 2010 at 11:00 am
Interesting review but personally have different tastes, to me the red is too harsh even when mixed so I almost always go with black due to its relatively decent cost/taste ratio.
Curious as to why you say gold is elusive? here in Australia it is fairly common at bottle shops (although not sure of the pricing but it does beat the AUD$250 for a bottle of blue).
Only ever had Chivas 12 so the next time I am buying will have to look for the 18 (or 25 depending on price).
Also have you tried the Johnnie Blue King George V Edition? Have seen it a few times for a ridiculous price and have always wondered if it is actually any good, or if it is just a label/status affair.