Johnnie Walker King George V Review

Johnnie Walker King George V038

43% abv

Score:  92.5/100


Take ye olde Johnnie Walker Blue Label.  Amp up the ratio of great to mediocre component whiskies.  Increase the average age of a few of those various casks.  Dial up the smoke a notch or two (apparently through the inclusion of some rare old Port Ellen).  Dust it all with a hefty sprinkling of complexity, the likes of which the Blue Label could only dream.  Give it a sleek and luxury-style packaging that even the LVMH folks would swoon for.  Triple (or quadruple) the price point.  Voila!  Johnnie Walker King George V.

Seriously, though.  This is damn sexy whisky.  Obviously marketed more towards the affluent upper crust than we punters, it’s definitely one that will take a swipe at your bank account if you plan to shelve a bottle.  But let’s not dwell on that for now.  Anyone who is looking to buy a $700 bottle of blended whisky probably isn’t too worried about that $700 in the first place.  Not to mention that taking price out of the equation is imperative to scoring and reviewing any whisky.  While it’s certainly fair game to weigh in on value for money, I kinda think the scores should only reflect the sustenance of spirit.

I’d also argue that these sorts of releases are aimed more at the luxury class in general, than at the average whisky enthusiast.  There is a prestige association here that supercedes the love of Scotch.  But that’s ok.  Malt snobs, sadly,  are not likely to be the ones reaching for this anyway, simply due to the ‘blend’ appellation and the name Johnnie Walker.  The reality is, though, they would be wrong.  There’s as much to love here as there is in the upper tiers of single malt splendour.  This whisky is the blenders’ art taken to heights rarely seen.  And in all likelihood…even more scarcely replicated.

Brilliant whisky.  Simple as that.

One final thought…

It’s not often (if ever) that most of us will encounter a blended whisky at anything but a normalized alcoholic strength, but man…to imagine what this King George could have scored at cask strength is staggering in its possibilities. 

Nose:  Smoke.  Creme caramel.  Dusty books.  Allspice.  Orange (fruit and zest).  Old wood shavings…maybe pencil shavings, at that.  Leather chairs and warm suede.  A hint of salt and some cereal notes.  Caramel.  Such an incredibly tight weave.

Palate:  Leather again here.  Smoke and mild earthy peatiness.  Slightly coastal.  Polished oak.  Spiced apple pie.  Smoky caramel.  Just a hint of fruitcake.  Apple skins.  A tad thin, but the flavours are fantastic. 

Thoughts:  This is such a well made dram that it would almost hit my desert island list.  Not because it’s one of the all time greats, but because it is so utterly appealing for almost every scenario I can conceive of.  Ok…it IS one of the all time greats.  More ‘Islay’ here than expected too.  ‘Classic’ single malt profile…but VERY high end.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

-Photo:  Curt

5 thoughts on “Johnnie Walker King George V Review

  1. Robert

    Your description of the nose and palate sounds a lot like Buchanan’s 18YO SR (another Diageo product). But I can get it here for $60, tax included, or one-tenth the cost of this luxury blend. I’d like to see a HTH review of these two, and really all Diageo blends. Gold vs Swing. Black vs Double Black. Red vs uhhhh… Cheap vodka?

    1. ATW Post author

      Haven’t tried the Buchanan’s, but would love to now.

      Hahaha. Love the JWR – vodka correlation. Being a bit generous, aren’t ya? (I kid. Sort of.)

  2. Jeff

    I think a lot of people might give this a pass, not because of anti-blend snobbishness, or even because of the price tag in an absolute sense, but because of simple quality/price ratio. Even if one’s minimum quality threshold for products is set fairly high at 90/100 or better, you can easily do a lot better than King George V:

    King George V: 92.5 points / $673.99 = 0.137 points per $.
    Corryvreckan: 94 points / $111.99 = 0.839 points per $.
    Spice Tree: 91 points / $63.99 = 1.42 points per $.

    The prestige and price of JW’s high end products just far outstrip their quality, high as it may be. Without offering any real innovation in the Gold and the Blue Labels, the persistent JW message is that “yes, quality HAS to cost this much”, which is why, even within the arena of blends/vats alone, JW is currently so vulnerable to Compass Box.

    1. Chad

      I simply don’t agree. I’ve had many, MANY fine whiskies in my time, including some pretty special single-cask rare bottlings and a small handful of 40- and 50-year-old single malts and single grains. I’ve had the King George V on one occasion — about seven months ago at a very high-end JW event launching the XR21 in this particular market. One glass, generously poured (thankfully) of the King George, and I would be very hard-pressed to think of any whisky at any price point that left such an impression on me. I remember every nuance. It’s a superlative whisky, and to try and merely compare it based on one person’s “point” system is a gross injustice. Yes, it’s expensive (the cheapest I’ve EVER seen it was on a duty-free island where it was priced well under US$400), but in my book, it would be worth it to buy.


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