Johnnie Walker has been pursuing a re-positioning of its brand as a purely aspirational spirit for the last few years. This past year Johnnie Walker dropped its popular Green Label Whisky, added Johnnie Walker Platinum Label to the line-up, and reformulated Johnnie Walker Gold Label from an 18 year blended scotch whisky to a non-age statement blend whose bottle seemed to be more the focus than the spirit inside. Johnnie Walker is now paying a little more attention to the ultra high end of the blended whisky category by bringing their John Walker & Sons Odyssey from international travel retail (duty free) to the US market.
As with many of the releases at this price, a tremendous amount of detail has been put into the packaging. John Walker & Son’s Odyssey is presented in a crystal decanter which rotates 360 degrees within the box, inspired by a gyroscope and emphasizing the nautical “odyssey” theme. The spirit inside the bottle is a blend of three rare single malts which are blended together and then finished in European oak casks. There isn’t any indication of the age of these malts or where they come from.
John Walker & Sons Odyssey Blended Scotch Whisky (80 proof / 40% ABV, $1,100) – deep amber in color, the nose on Odyssey is a nice blend of orange, honey, caramel, and clove spice with a touch of salt. It has the character of a spiced cake. The entry has a nice round mouth feel with subtle flavors from the nose including the orange, honey, caramel, and salt. Odyssey isn’t a particularly bold or assertive whisky, which is very much in line with the Johnnie Walker style. In the midpalate the whisky turns its focus to warm baking spices like clove, nutmeg, and ginger which are well balanced by the rich honey and caramel undertones. The spice flavors are full but not overly strong. It’s in the midpalate where Odyssey shows its age, with a very slight touch of rancio. The finish is surprisingly dry, much more so than we would expect, showing that Johnnie Walker used a younger malt in the mix to balance out older malt.
Aside from a finish that’s a little too dry, John Walker & Sons Odyssey is a solid blend from Johnnie Walker. Is it worth the $1100 price tag? No. While it’s a solid blend, there’s nothing here that is so exceptional to justify the price tag, but that really isn’t the business for Johnnie Walker. Johnnie Walker isn’t focused on delivering value – they are focused on aspiration, and the customer plunking down over a grand for this bottle isn’t looking for something exceptional, they are looking for something that reflects their desire for showing off their prosperity. Odyssey manages to deliver a blend that’s distinctly Johnnie Walker with nice flavor and balance without any chance of offending even the most casual blended scotch drinker. They’ve put it in a stunning package and put the kind of price tag on it that will enable some to show off their wealth with whisky.