Johnnie Walker Ghost & Rare – Pittyvaich

Even though Johnnie Walker is the most sold Scotch blended whisky on the planet, it’s often overlooked or even looked down upon by aficionados and enthusiast customers. While admittedly it’s entry Red Label expression is more aimed at blends, a lot of their higher priced offerings are passed by as well. Black Label is still too simple, Blue Label is deemed too expensive, and their blended malt Green Label is probably one of the most overlooked values on the market.

In an attempt to target the more affluent consumer, Diageo launched the Blue Label Ghost and Rare series back in 2017 with the Brora edition. This was followed up with an offering containing Port Ellen, Glenury Royal, and now Pittyvaich.

I remember trying the Glenury Royal edition at the International Ghent Whisky Festival in March 2020, right before lockdown. However, in my excitement, I sandwiched it between a Cooper’s Choice Lagavulin and a 1970’s Clynelish. Thus it’s safe to say my palate wasn’t to be trusted.

Wisdom comes with age, or so they say, so this time, I acquired a sample bottle to drink at home, rather than hastily tasting it at a festival.

Like most of the other Ghost & Rare series, this Pittyvaich edition is bottled at 43,8% ABV. Other than the rather obvious Pittyvaich, it contains malt whisky from Mannochmore, Auchroisk, Strathmill, Cragganmore and Royal Lochnagar and grain whisky from the closed Carsebridge and Port Dundas distilleries.

Because of the lower ABV and the expectation of a sweet and smooth palate, I decided to eschew the usual Glencairn glass for my 1920’s Blender’s Glass. It has a tendency to boost the nose as opposed to the Glencairn, especially on lower ABV whiskies.

The nose offers the expected fruityness in the form of peaches and other stone fruit, along with hints of mango and papaya. After a few minutes in the glass, the fruitiness is quite unexpectedly, taken away and replaced by notes of malted cereal, feta cheese and a touch of salinity. Give it some more time and the fruits return, offering a rather pleasant, decently complex, and relaxing nose.

It nicely continues on the palate, offering an almost velvety mouthfeel. It’s sweet, with cotton candy, peach cobbler, vanilla and creme brulee. This is balanced out with hints of spice and pepper and some (milky) oolong tea. There’s more going on here, and the flavors integrate nicely. The spices also offer more of a punch than it’s 43,8% ABV would suggest, though it never gets aggresive.

The finish leaves us with more of the same: vanilla and peach, linseed oil and a touch of bitterness in the form of grape seeds.

It was a good decision to drink this on it’s own, getting to know the whisky and giving it some time. The experience is decently complex and there’s enough punch even if you’re used to drinking cask strenth stuff.The whisky leaves me somewhat baffled as to what to think of it. On one hand, it’s a perfectly fine whisky helped along with a beautiful presentation.On the other, the retailprice of around €300 is steep and there are numerous blends I’d rather spend my money on, like the 20-something year old Douglas Laing Big Peat and Compass Box’s Spice Tree Extravaganza.

I’m scoring this whisky 86/100, and as with all scores, I try not to take presentation, scarcity and price into account.

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