John Barr Blended Scotch Whisky

So today I finally got time to make a whisky run inside Washington DC and ended up close to the Maryland border so stopped in there also. My reward was picking up 4 bottles that I cannot pick up in Virginia, save one. One of these great finds was this 1.75L of Blended whisky. John Barr is new to me. Obviously it is nothing new in the UK and its story is worth mentioning.

As the story, albeit brief, goes there was a legal problem in the EU about Johnny Walker Red in 1977. While no great explanation is given, JW had to be withdrawn from a particular market. In came John Barr! It was evidently a label used for the market to fill the gap. The “brand” has been purchased by Whyte & Mackay, not sure when, who are experts in blended whisky. The very fact that W&M is involved in this endeavor made me purchase the product. If you do not know who Richard Paterson is, he is the master distiller for W&M and takes blending whisky seriously! If you don’t believe me, watch this.

John Barr, in the UK, comes in a choice of Red, Gold, or Black. What I found today just has a black label and no mention of “Black Label.” A quick Google search turned up an image of a bottle similar, yet smaller, that is described as a Reserve. This was tasted by tastings.com of Chicago and they rated it highly.

So? Is it any good? YES! A resounding yes! While I am not surprised due to W&M’s involvement I do feel some affirmation from trusting that W&M’s Paterson would never let an inferior product exist in his world. I mentioned a few posts ago that I was going to pursue less expensive yet good scotch whisky and I am so happy to report I have found one. This 1.75L cost me about $32 on sale, usually $40. At this price, you have a very nice daily drinker that you are not going to soon get tired of.

As for the particulars: Colour is Golden/Amber, Nose is malty and cries out quality malt. The taste is malty, Speyside honeyed with some crisp explosions of spice, I’m also going to guess there is some weighted Sherry Butt (cask or barrel) finishing going on here. The ABV is 43% (which I think is perfect) and I drank it neat, of course. The mouth-feel is very oily at first and it coats the palate quite well. I wanted to go eat Bacon with it!

I think that this is one of the best, if not the best 1.75L offerings I have ever tasted. I would be happy to have this in a decanter! I have asked the company to send me more information. If I receive more exact information on this product I will update this post.

UPDATE —

I haven’t heard any information back on this product so I don’t have any more to share. The only thing I would like to add is that this is about half full now and I noticed a very strong alcohol presence when I drank it today. It really came across as rubbing alcohol. I’m not sure if this was just due to me noticing it more or the chemistry is changing as air is introduced. Advice, you do not want to hold onto this one for too long.

Cheers!

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6 thoughts on “John Barr Blended Scotch Whisky

  1. John Barr was my grandfather. Of course, that has nothing to do with the whisky, just my interest in it. The whisky is its own tangled web. John Barr did originally appear as a Johnnie Walker replacement. At some point, they spun it off, and W&M purchased it. Of course, USL eventually purchased W&M, and then USL was purchased by Diageo (who still make Johnny Walker) in 2013. In 2011 W&M spun off W&M America to handle the Jura, The Dalmore, Cluny, John Barr, Glen Salen, Whyte & Mackay and Mackinlay’s whisky brands, as well as Glayva Liqueur, Snow Leopard and Pinky vodkas destined for the US. They’re now distributed by Park Street. There seems to be a legal battle at the moment whether Diageo has to divest itself of some of its scotch brands. W&M is not currently listed by Diageo as one of their brands, it’s still listed under USL (which is 53% owned by Diageo). However, John Barr isn’t listed under USL OR on W&M’s website. It IS listed on Park Street’s website, but there’s no indication of who’s making it now. The bottle I picked up (apparently the same 1.75L as you) says imported by W&M, LTD, Americas. There’s no reference to the age, though as you mention, it is 86 proof. It doesn’t even appear to have its own website.

    • Thanks so much for your comments! And thanks for the history of John Barr whisky. I did some research and its pretty hard to track it. I’m sure you are very proud of your grandfather’s accomplishments! I do hope the line will find a good place to rest, so many scotch whiskys have disappeared over the years due to corporate shuffles and buyouts. Thanks again for your comments!

      Cheers!

  2. Thanks for this review. I remember my dad asking me to look into John Par when I became interested in spirits. I looked all over for it and no one knew what I was talking about. My dad was from Cuba and had an accent and when I heard par it was actually Barr. Stupid me. Dad has since passed on, and seeing a whisky called Old Parr I thought to do some searching, and google suggested this. Great review and I will be buying a bottle. Maybe with all this “corporate shuffle” talk i should get a case.

  3. tried to trace the john barr signature as it is perfectly identical to my late fathers and to my own but to no avail still have a bottle and matching jug

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