Pros: Smooth enough to drink straight, on par with many 12 yr single malts
Cons: Not Johnnie Walker Blue
Is Johnnie Walker Black, at 1/6 the price of Johnnie Walker Blue Label worth it? Does it have the complexity, the sweetness, the spice? Let's see.
Johnnie Walker is often mistaken for a 2nd Class Scotch because it blends its products. This fallacy is propagated by movies like Swingers where Mikey asks for Scotch, preferably single malt. I have always been under the impression that there is crap and there is the good stuff and you will find it under all different names. Just because you recognize the name or it says single malt does not mean it tastes great or that you will like it.
The Johnnie Walker Black Label blends several whiskies that have all been aged at least 12 years. Blended whiskies can also contain grain alcohol, however, Johnnie Walker does not use any other alcohol other than single malts often. Its premium label, Blue, only uses single malts aged from 25 to over 60 years.
A family company has always independently owned Johnnie Walker. Because of this, the company still grows its own barley, carries out its traditional floor malting, and even employs its own barrel makers and coppersmiths.
John Walker started out just SW of Glasgow in 1820 as a grocery, wine, and spirit distributor. It was not until the 1850s, however, that his whisky business really got on the move when his son, Alexander, joined the business. By the end of the 19th Century, the business spread to London, Australia, and South Africa.
Just after the turn of the century, the Kilmarnock Whisky name dropped in favor of the newly coined Johnnie Walker and the Red and Black Labels featuring the Walker figure. The black label was also known as Extra Special Old Highland.
I have not got to the point where I can look at a scotch and tell the origins, if it is a blend or single malt. Most scotch looks the same to me in a tumbler over the rocks. Golden in color like a cream soda for you non-drinkers. I think Ill just keep this as a base review standard and only mention the color if it is drastically different from other like being green.
Most scotch whiskies have peat aromas and similar to others because of the traditional use of malted barley, Scottish water, and distilling processes using copper kettles. The biggest difference is if there are any other ingredients used for more of a floral bouquet or even different oak casks used that previously housed sherry, ports, or even wine like the Glen Company has been selling their Morangie label.
The Black Label was nothing special, nothing far from ordinary. The smoke and peat made their presence known but nothing spectacular stuck out. The scotch was not unpleasant, like American Bourbon, to nose, however. A blended whiskey will not let you recognize the aroma as it changes from batch to batch, of course. So, after I determined that this whisky was very similar to the other 12 years Ive consumed I moved onto
Once again, there was nothing spectacular that stood out from the Black Label. I was glad that I asked for this with rocks. I did not initially like the flavor, as it was a little harsh and too burnt. The whisky numbs your palate initially if sipped straight so there was little to note. After a couple minutes of soaking up some water, I finally got to taste what the blender had in mind, a dance of flavor and aromas. The water helped release the Black Label and it did so pleasantly. The alcohol was far less harsh and I could taste the malted barley and peat from the different whiskies. The blended scotch was not as good as some of my favorite single malts, however, I have tasted far worse single malts. (Review yet to come of one of these).
THE AFTER TASTE
If you have to come away from this review with one phrase in mind, it should be:
Nothing spectacular, Not Bad, Worth the Money
I cannot really target what makes this Scotch worth the money. At the same time, I cannot tell you that this Scotch was bad in any way. The only adjustment I had to make was add some still water. I did not try this Scotch neat and then add water as I enjoy most of my whisky chilled. The only whisky I have really enjoyed at room temperature was the Blue Label.
For that reason and because the Blue Labels flavor and aroma definitely were amazing, I will have to say that Blue Label is far better than any blend or even most single malts on the market.
But because I am reviewing the Black Label, I will have to tell you that this label is worth every cent and you can purchase it for your home with pride. There really isnt a better blended whisky on the market for under $25. There are not many whiskies in general that can beat this for the price as well. Put it up there along with your Dewars 12 Year Blend and you have a good match.
Other great whiskeys:
Dewars Aberfeldy 12 Yr Single Malt
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Johnnie Walker Gold Label
From A Beautiful Mind
Officer, I saw the driver of the car that hit me. His name is Johnnie Walker.