Does not have any harsh or offensive notes. Pleasant and unoffensive.
Utterly unremarkable and forgettable.
While Johnnie Walker Red Label may sell more by volume, the Black Label may be the most recognizable scotch whisky in the world. The poster child of Diageo’s Johnnie Walker range, the Black Label is marketed as a more premium step up from the non-age stated Red Label, and can be found in almost any restaurant or bar in America as well as in a plethora of magazine and television advertisements. Unlike the Red Label, Black is crafted and advertised to have mass appeal not as a cheap mixer, but as a versatile scotch that can be sipped neat, on the rocks, or mixed into scotch cocktails, while not making the drinker feel like they’re drinking bottom shelf swill.
As a blended scotch whisky, we know that the Black Label contains components from multiple distilleries, as well as both malt and grain whisky. For more information on blended, malt, and grain whisky see Andrew’s review of the Red Label. Diageo certainly has a plethora of distilleries to choose component whisky to blend with, as their portfolio encompasses over two and a half dozen scotch whisky distilleries. While Diageo only advertises that the Black Label is blended using whiskies from “the four corners of Scotland”, a bit of research and dialogue from people “in the know” confirms that the Black Label likely contains significant amounts of Cardhu, Talisker, Caol Ila, and Cragganmore, along with a large portion of grain whisky and smaller proportions of malt whisky from many other distilleries under Diageo’s ownership. The age statement certifies that the minimum age of any component of the blend is 12 years.
- A blend of both malt and grain whisky from undisclosed distilleries
- 12 year age stated
- Chill filtered and heavily colored for “uniformity and consistency”
- Bottled at 40% ABV
Nose: A bit of a hodge podge of scotch styles. Notes of raisin, honey, and charred oak are easily detected alongside a bit of campfire smoke and a hint of sea salt.
Palate: The body is fairly light, but the grain whisky does it’s job on the mouthfeel, giving this whisky a nice creamy heft. The flavors are, as you could say, very “smooth”. Raisin and honey sweetness dominate the arrival before developing into a malty vanilla and finally a light smoke.
Finish: Smokier than the nose or palate with hints of peat and raisin sweetness.
Buying Recommendation: Worth buying a pour. Johnnie Walker Black Label is not crafted to compete with the more eclectic and flavorful single malts of Scotland; that much is clear. This is crafted to have mass appeal, and to be frank, no one could really go wrong with a pour of Johnnie Walker Black. It’s unchallenging and does not contain the more harsh and offensive notes of the Red Label. It tastes decent neat or on the rocks. You get what you pay for here, which is a $30 blended scotch that you can easily mix in cocktails or keep in a decanter and pour for your friend who supposedly “loves scotch” yet cannot tell the difference between Lagavulin and Glenfiddich.