WISER’S SPECIAL BLEND—Making Johnnie Walker its bitch

My Fellow Inebriates,

As exhilaratingly nasty as our last whisky tasting was, LBHQ isn’t big enough for a substance as raunchy as JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL. Our tastebuds aren’t sure whether to bother growing back until the bottle’s finished, but kudos to my dad for bringing home such a coarse, discordant palate-abuser.

The hell, you say. There’s no reason to laud such a purchase, is there?

Well, first of all, buying JOHNNIE WALKER RED isn’t the worst choice my dad’s ever made. Just last weekend, for example, he locked his car keys in the trunk of the car. Ka-ching, $60, and roadside assistance popped the mechanism (I had a vision of FOUR mickeys of crappy whisky floating away, all for naught).

Second, products like JOHNNIE WALKER RED serve admirably as tastebud resetters. By burning all your tastebuds off, they destroy the memory of what a good whisky tastes like, zeroing out your expectations (and in fact, my second glass of JOHNNIE WALKER RED was considerably more tolerable than the first). Effectively you get re-accustomed to cheap crap, which is good for your budget.

Third—and I could be totally wrong about this, so perhaps some neo-Darwinians out there will correct me—only the toughest tastebuds survive the bad-whisky assault, and after repeated assaults these hardy little meat-pixels dominate your tongue’s surface, where they not only welcome solvent-like booze but ask for more. Not only is this good for your budget; it also tricks you into thinking you’re enjoying your cheap crap.

Win-win-win.

The only downside about JOHNNIE WALKER RED is that it’s not as cheap as it could be. About $16 buys you 375 mL, but for $11.87 you could have WISER’S SPECIAL BLEND.

But wait, you say, I only just survived JOHNNIE WALKER RED. Surely WISER’S SPECIAL BLEND, at three-quarters its price, will be paint thinner itself.

Surprisingly not. Deep amber-gold, WISER’S SPECIAL BLEND opens up gently with a light grain aroma that develops quickly—wood, vanilla, and a hint of caramel. It spreads over the tongue with a warming, smooth oaky-caramel release, lingering with polite heat and a slight medicinal hint.

For a cheap whisky, WISER’S SPECIAL BLEND has a lot going on. Whereas many of its fellow Canadian whiskies fall short on character, WISER’S offers plenty of depth and layering, and enough balance to hit a wide range of whisky-drinking tastes. With its unexpected subtlety, and for the most reasonable dough possible, it makes JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL its bitch.

For sure, there are more complex whiskies out there, but you won’t find them in big-ass 1.75-L bottles with a mere $56 price tag. Which is about the cost of unlocking your trunk to retrieve your car keys. 😦

JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL—Get rough with yourself

The latest household excuse to drink is that it keeps us out of the snacks at night. Now that my parents are well into their forties, they have to think about spare tires and heart health. No longer can they hoover back a tub of Breyer’s—at least not without foraging for aspirin to take care of that pain shooting down their respective left arms. Far better to have a dram and call it a night.

What exactly is a dram? I thought I knew what a dram was—surely it’s a generous shot, or at least a shot, right?

OMG, it’s not!! A dram, defined in apothecary terms, is one sixteenth of an ounce, my fellow inebriates, 1.77 grams—a mere taste, my fellow inebriates, and absolutely inadequate for taking care of the DTs.

What we need is a wee dram. A wondrously fluid measurement, a wee dram refers to a taste of your favorite whisky, poured at your discretion. Ahhh! So a wee dram can refer to that very generous shot you pour yourself, or to that very parsimonious finger you might reluctantly pour for some douchebag. A wee dram can be a tipple, or it can get you totally wasted.

The one constant about the wee dram is that the whisky must be something nice.

So when we had a wee dram of JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL last night, we really didn’t. Because RED LABEL is decidedly not nice. And it wasn’t an actual dram, because when I pour a finger it’s more like a paw.

How did I get my paws on this wretched JOHNNIE WALKER RED? My dad had just put up a bunch of shelves in the garage and sorted out a whole bunch of documents to take to his accountant. He deserved some booze. And he thought I should actually review something instead of trawling for half-assed memes and dishing unsolicited advice about constipation and flatulence.

I had moderate hopes for JOHNNIE WALKER RED. It has a really bad bottom-shelf reputation despite not being the cheapest of the cheap. If only because JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK is so respectable, I thought RED LABEL would at least faintly echo that quality. Then again, there’s a reason brands like Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff diversify across price points—they don’t just court silky, moneyed palates; they want hobos, too, and bears who enjoy the company of both.

With its entrancing honey color, you can’t fault JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL until you’ve opened the bottle. Then you get a whiff of sweet malt, peat, alcohol, and floor cleaner. The body is solvent-like. I remember one time I thought we were never going to buy alcohol again and I started eyeing the Windex; I swirled the bottle around just to see if it had good legs and wondered whether it would really make me go blind. JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL is ever-so-slightly thinner, albeit more appealing.

On to the taste.

The palate can’t very well say it hasn’t been warned. This is going to be some rough shit. And it totally is, my fellow inebriates. Sharp, bitter alcohol and raunchy peat beset the palate, seconded by dirt and sourness. The burn is short and fiery, like being kicked in the kidneys or getting your fur waxed by a beauty-school trainee. This stuff is fuel, people. I totally loved it.

JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL demands ice to be drinkable. Enough ice to ensure that, no matter how slowly you sip (for the masochists out there), there will always be ice so you can tolerate it. You do not want the ice to melt. You do not want to properly taste RED LABEL.

And for the body-conscious, some good news: this shit will trash your palate. There’s no food you could possibly enjoy afterwards. Go to bed and let your tastebuds grow back, then have some more JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL in the morning. That’s what it’s made for.