Johnnie Walker Swing
by Darcy O'Neil on October 2010
The house of Johnnie Walker has been a mainstay in the scotch market for many years. For good or bad, they have created whisky branding that is easy for the average consumer to identify and define the quality of the spirit in the bottle. Obviously I'm talking about the Red, Black, Green, Gold and Blue labels. But there is more to Johnnie Walker than coloured labels, they do have other products like Swing. For those who are not familiar with this Johnnie Walker product, it was created in the 1932 and has a convex base that causes it to rock back and forth when pushed. On ships, the action of the waves would cause the bottle to rock. The bottle is interesting, but what is inside the bottle is even more interesting.
Many years ago, when my parents came back from a trip, they picked up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Swing at the duty free shop. We estimate it was around 1991 when the bottle was purchased. I was about 20 years old at the time and remember the rocking motion of the bottle and thought it was pretty cool. I was easily amused in my youthful years. Since then the Swing bottle has been hanging around my parents home, collecting dust, and unopened for the last 15 years. Every once in a while, when I visited, I'd come across the bottle and bring it to the table, rock it back and forth and then try to convince them to open it so we could have a taste. For 15 years the answer was "no". Then, I found the bottle again and when I dusted the Swing bottle off, the answer about opening it changed to "yes". So we opened it, much to my surprise.
It was probably better to wait until I was in my mid 30's before opening it, since I can appreciate it better now. Back then I was drinking scotch with club soda (or water) and now I just sip it straight. Johnnie Walker Swing is one of those whiskies that is best appreciated straight. Partially because Swing is hard to find and partially because the whisky tastes very good when served neat.
Once we unceremoniously opened the bottle, everyone poured a dram and gave it a taste. The general impression was good. My first impression was of sweetness, both in the nose and on the tongue. The finish was long, smooth and smoky with some spiciness. After that first taste we went on about our business. In a surprising move, my parents told me to take the bottle home, so I did, and here I am reviewing it.
Since my first impression was more about opening the Swing bottle, than actually contemplating the taste, I figured I'd do a more thorough review. The basic facts about Johnnie Walker Swing include: it is a blended whisky with no age statement on the bottle. This is pretty normal for the Johnnie Walker line of scotch whiskies. Up to 35 whiskies are used in its creation, the majority from Speyside, where single malts vary between those matured for many years in sherry casks to gain richness, and others that are lighter and more aromatic. Swing uses a high proportion of these contrasting malts in the blend, complemented by malts from the northern Highlands and Islay to add spice and weight.
Johnnie Walker Swing Tasting Notes:
First, the whisky is actually a deep golden brown in colour, similar to Marker's Mark bourbon. On the nose it is sweet and you can pick up some sherry fruitiness and some smoke and peat. It smells quit nice if you allow it to open up for a few minutes. On the tongue it starts off sweet and then the spicy notes hit about mid palate and then the smoke and peat come out. It has a smooth lingering smoke and spice finish. The one aspect that is very noticeable is that this is an exceptionally smooth scotch. There is no bite or raw alcohol heat. There also doesn't seem to be a lot of maltiness, but I'm OK with that since I find Swing to be so well balanced and the taste stages are well defined. Adding water doesn't seem to improve the flavour, but it does bring out some wood notes.
Unlike Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Swing is more subtle and relaxed. I'll have to get some Black Label to do a better comparison in the future. This is a good whisky to give as a gift, it has all of the characteristics of a good scotch, but is smooth enough to be enjoyed by anyone.
For me this was a fun scotch to taste, mostly because I had to wait 15 years to try it. I wasn't disappointed though, and after waiting so long, sometimes things like this can be a let down. Happily it worked out well. Now, it is time to finish this little dram and bring the bottle back home. It doesn't seem right having the bottle on my desk when it spent so many years collecting dust at my parent house.