by Richard Thomas
The green bottle and yellow label of Justerini and Brooks is one of the world’s most iconic mass-market scotch labels, with the big red “J&B” at least as well-known as the strolling, top-hatted gentleman of Johnny Walker. However, J&B has nothing like Johnny Walker’s high-end (albeit still blended) line of scotch, and its 15 Year Reserve is proof enough of that. The title might sound promising, but unfortunately the scotch within falls flat.
The disappointing experience with J&B’s 15 Year Reserve starts with the bottle. Unlike the classic green bottle of the standard J&B, which is a rather ornate bottle, the 15 Year Reserve is in a plain, ugly brown bottle. The bottle is, in fact, so ordinary and the brown color so undesirable for bottling whiskey, one wonders what J&B is trying to hide by using it. A bottle like that ought to be used for bottling large a hefty quantity of beer, not a supposedly aged and rare scotch.
J&B’s 15 Year Reserve comes with a moderately salty nose with a pinch of peat. That smoky peat is stronger on the palate, but the flavor remains light and with a sweet, candy-like quality with overtones of cinnamon. The smoke and sweetness evaporate quickly, however, and the finish is rough with salt and pepper. The alcohol content is 40%.
All of that might sound quite sophisticated, but only until you set the standard J&B and the J&B 15 Year Reserve side-by-side. The two are very, very similar, with the only noteworthy difference being the stronger flavor of peat found in the 15 Year Reserve. Furthermore, the rough finish is disappointing for a scotch aged for 15 years.
The typical bottle of J&B’s 15 Reserve 15 Year Old Scotch is priced at roughly double what the normal bottle costs, hovering at around $40. Given the minor difference in quality between the Reserve 15 Year and the standard bottle of J&B, that price is far too high. It is better than regular J&B scotch, but not that much better. For a little more money, consumers can buy a much better bottle of scotch, and those who are wedded to J&B would be better off sticking with the standard label.
Buyers should beware of swindlers on E-Bay who claim the J&B 15 Year Reserve is a rare collectible and want $200 for it, because it is neither rare nor worthy of collecting.