The dram is pleasant from start to finish with a fun array of fruit notes blended well with the creaminess of the grain whisky.
The marketing for Double Black promises a "bolder and smokier" whisky compared to the standard Black. In that regard it fails. Hardly a hint of smoke can be found.
Progressing up the Johnnie Walker price ladder, we now find ourselves at the Double Black, which sits about $10 more than the standard 12 year Black, and is advertised as a “darker, smokier interpretation of the world famous Johnnie Walker Black Label”. Diageo’s blenders achieve this by using a higher proportion of west coast and island malt whisky (think Talisker, Lagavulin, Caol Ila) as well as a higher proportion of whisky aged in heavily charred sherry casks. Due to these tweaks to the blend composition, I am lead to expect something “powerful, full bodied, and smoky”. As a lover of heavily peated whisky, this sounds right up my alley. Black was pleasant, but ultimately quite boring. One thing of note is that while the regular Black Label carries a 12 year age statement, Double Black is a non-age stated whisky, meaning it could have components as young as 3 years old in it.
- A blend of malt and grain whisky from multiple undisclosed distilleries
- No age statement
- Chill filtered and colored with E150 (flavorless caramel coloring)
- Bottled at the legal minimum 40% ABV
Nose: Light and creamy mix of stone fruit and malt. Apricot, candied pear, hints of raspberry coulis, and sweet, malty cream. Inoffensive, soft, and pleasant. Noticeably absent from the aroma are any notes remotely peaty or smokey. “Powerful, full bodied, and smoky” this aroma is not. Fruity, airy, and soft are the descriptors here.
Palate: Malty and slightly sour. Malted vanilla, apricot, green apple, and raspberries. Around the edges are accent notes of fresh lemon and bitter florals (perhaps a vegetative, non-smoky peat?) similar to what one might find in malt whisky made by Dalwhinnie. No ethanol heat at all. Medium bodied. Again, where the hell is the powerful, dark, and smoky whisky I was promised? This drinks more like a fruity Speyside than a smoky island whisky.
Finish: Lemon, vanilla frosting, wildflower, and a lovely mineral peatiness (finally!!) akin to what you find in Talisker.
Buying Recommendation: Worth trying a pour. This is certainly a good whisky. It’s got a fun mix of fruits that integrate well with the creamy grain notes, and it does not have any acetone/fingernail polish notes that often plague blends containing young grain whisky. Still, I must complain once more: when I buy whisky, I’m buying a certain expected flavor profile. I buy Ardbeg or Lagavulin because I want a smoky whisky. I buy Glengoyne or Balblair because I want fruity and floral. Likewise, while I enjoyed the sample I received of Double Black (Thanks Rich!!), I’d have been disappointed if I’d bought a $40 bottle advertised as bold and smoky and it turned out to taste literally the exact opposite. The only hint of peated island whisky I found was the hint of Talisker on the finish. All in all, if you’re looking for a quality blended whisky that’s a step above the Black Label, this still gets the job done.