Diageo is set to radically shake up its Johnnie Walker blended Scotch whisky range by ditching two of the range and replacing them with two new whiskies, writes Dominic Roskrow.
Johnnie Walker Green Label, a 15-year-old blended malt, is to be phased out in the coming months, but will be given a 12-month stay of execution in the US. It will also remain on sale in Taiwan, where the blended malt category is thriving.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label, an 18-year-old blend, will also be phased out by the end of the year, but will be given a one-year extension in the US.
In their place Diageo has announced the global launch in May and June – possibly longer in one or two world territories – of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, with no age statement, which has been sold for the last five years in south-east Asia; and Johnnie Walker Platinum Label, an 18-year-old blend.
“The Johnnie Walker team has always been about delivering a high quality liquid and as you know, it has done this consistently and this is no different,” said Diageo’s Dr Nicholas Morgan.
“The heart of the new Gold Label Reserve will still be Clynelish to deliver taste and mouthfeel. But this should not be approached just as a matter of age.
“The Johnnie Walker team have attempted to put together a portfolio of whisky which provides a taste journey for the consumer so that at each level and at each price point the consumer has a different taste experience. It was felt that the old portfolio didn’t quite deliver that and the new additions are intended to provide a more balanced overall offering.”
The news marks the latest stage by Diageo to grow its blended category. The company has made no secret of the fact that it sees the future of Scotch whisky in the blended sector rather than single malts, and is keen to focus media and “opinion former” attention on the positive side of the blended category.
But the company won’t be drawn on whether it is buying up any available stocks of whisky it can get its hands on.
“If you look at the amount of blended whisky we sell, then we are of course committed to it,” said Dr Morgan. “Do we want to grow Johnnie Walker? Yes, of course.
“We can grow the brand in a number of ways. We have a series of marketing initiatives in different markets. We have massively expanded Glen Ord and Caol Ila, all our distilleries are practically working flat out, and we have built Roseisle. We have also always sourced whisky from elsewhere and that no doubt is continuing.”