The Bottom Line
The name Johnnie Walker is one of the best known in the world of Scotch, the square bottle, colored labels distinguishing the blends and the complex flavors have all combined over the years to make this Scotch one of the best selling in the world. The key to Johnnie Walker's success is the consistent, beautifully mastered blends and the Black Label is a shining example of the art of blending fine whisky for a reasonable price. In 1820 John Walker began blending whiskies and in 1909 his son Alexander brought the family business to a new level by relaunching an old recipe under a new, easier to call, name: Black Label.
- A Scotch that is a gentle introduction to blended Scotch whiskies.
- Mixable in a variety of Scotch cocktails, especially the classics.
- Reasonably priced and readily available.
- This may still have too much smoke for some tastes.
- Blended Scotch whisky comprised of around 40 single malts and grain whiskies, each aged at least 12 years.
- Originally known as "Walker's Old Highland Whisky"
- Created in 1820 and relaunched in 1909
- Distilled, blended and bottled in Scotland by John Walker & Sons, Kilmarnock, Scotland
- Imported by Diageo North America
- Retails for around $30/750 ml bottle
- 40% alc/volume (80 proof)
Guide Review - Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch
Can you call a Scotch scrumptious? I think this one qualifies. It's as if Willy Wonka got into Scotch, adding bits of sweet, a touch of smoke and a mouthwatering blend of indescribable flavors. Johnnie Walker Black Label is the most complex of the portfolio and includes around 40 whiskies, most of which are single malts and a few of those exclusively produced for this particular blend. The blended whiskies used represent the vast range of Scotch regions, from the mellow lowland malts to the robust island malts and the ember-like Islay malts.
The problem many drinkers have with Scotch is that they can easily become too peaty, too smoky that is. It is the defining characteristic of this style of whisky and that is why a blended Scotch such as Black Label also add grain whiskies to the blend. This softens the peaty Scotch experience, rendering a drinkable and sweeter blended Scotch. For those who enjoy a balance of the too - sweet and peat - Black Label is a great place to start.
This balance also lends itself wonderfully to the few great Scotch cocktails like the classically simple Affinity or Rob Roy. In the Robert Burns, an intriguing war between peat and anise takes place and Johnnie Walker Black Label is one of the most fitting opponents of all Scotch whiskies.
Each of the distillery characteristics known to Scotch come through in Black Label. The aroma is sweet and fruity with a touch of peat. This leads to a sultry palate of warm grain and oak with vanilla and butter notes. It finishes semi-dry and retains a balanced smoke for a period just long enough that the taste buds crave more.