Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker The Spice Road - The Whiskey Wash

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker The Spice Road

Johnnie Walker The Spice Road

image via Aaron Knapp/The Whiskey Wash

From the bustling trade markets of East Asia through the opulent cities of Persia to the verdant jungles of Amazonia, the ubiquitous Johnnie Walker is seeking to distill the sights and scents that the Walker family and their employees have experienced to further the business in the company’s nearly 200 years – at least according to Johnnie Walker.

While I can’t help but raise a skeptical eyebrow to the notion that 19th Century Scotch purveyors embarked on business forays into South America, China, and the Ottoman Empire, Johnnie Walker has released a sub-group of its Explorers’ Club Collection to “pay homage to travellers of the past and present.”

This sub-group, The Trade Routes Series, includes three blended Scotch whiskies, each named for a historical path of international trade: The Spice Road, The Golden Route, and The Royal Route. I’ll be reviewing The Spice Road here and the other two in subsequent reviews, which I have in a box of three 200-milliliter bottles.

Although the box is less than clear, it seems that The Spice Road refers to a sea route (mostly) starting from the southern Pacific Ocean, hugging the coast of southern Asia, going overland in Egypt, through the Mediterranean Sea and ending at approximately Barcelona, Spain. It’s inspired by the “vibrant colors and heady flavors” of spice markets between China, India and Persia, according to the online product description.

Johnnie Walker doesn’t give many details on the creation of The Spice Road or its companion blends, but it is aged in oak casks and comes in at 40 percent alcohol by volume. The Spice Road and its two companion whiskies (as well as the fourth whisky in the Explorers’ Club Collection, The Adventurer) are only available in Duty Free stores. A one-liter bottle of The Spice Road has a suggested retail price of a little over $40.

If the Explorers’ Club sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the New York-based club, members of which boast accomplishments of being the first to reach both poles, summit Mount Everest and walk on the moon. A New York judge blocked Johnnie Walker’s parent company Diageo (who also owns Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Tanqueray, Guinness and Bulleit) from using the name. The two sides eventually reached a settlement allowing Johnnie Walker to use the name in exchange for Diageo becoming a global sponsor and committing to work with the organization to “promote exploration and discovery.”

Tasting Notes: Johnnie Walker The Spice Road

Vital Stats: Blended Scotch sold in a one-liter version of Johnnie Walker’s classic square bottle. No age statement, but aged in oak casks. Only available at Duty Free stores for a suggested retail price of over $40.

Appearance: Amber with a slightly redder hue than the average whisky.

Nose: First hits the nasal passages with tropical, spicy citrus aroma, dominated by lemon, ginger and clove with touches of smoke and sandalwood. Those prominent odors mellow to a scent of fruity red wine reminiscent of citrusy sangria with a touch of the salty aroma you smell while near the ocean.

Palate: Inversely to the nose, The Spice Road hits the tongue smoothly, like a sweet vanilla extract that feels less viscous than the typical whisky, with a hint of smoke. That quickly transitions into intensifying spiciness dominated by ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. That spiciness hits its zenith when swallowed, then leaves a lingering tingly sensation in the back corners of the mouth, with a warm, smoky, sweet coating around the rest of the mouth and palate.

Final Thoughts & Score/Buy A Bottle:

Score: 83/100

Buy NowWhile The Spice Road is a decent whisky with some interesting flavors, my sole disappointment is that those flavors tend to come in waves that overpower its predecessors. In that way, I taste a number of flavors in distinct phases rather than a gradual transition that would allow for a more interesting (for me at least) blending of those flavors.