Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.
Easily one of the most instantly recognizable labels in the world of whisky, Johnnie Walker Black Label blended Scotch whisky traces its roots at least all the way back to 1909 when the name first appeared. Prior releases were known as “Extra Special Old Highland Whisky.” Today’s Black Label occupies the next rung above Red Label in the standard Label lineup currently offered by Johnnie Walker via international drink distributors Diageo.
This blended Scotch bears a 12-year age statement, meaning that the youngest of the many whiskies contributing to this blend must be at least 12-years old. The Johnnie Walker website claims this blend “brings together flavors from the four corners of Scotland…”
Blending whisky is as much an art as it is a science. There is not likely to be a armistice in the war of (sometimes unnecessarily heated) opinion between single malt purists and lovers of blends. Without getting too philosophical in a whisky review, I think taking an extreme stance on any polarizing issue tends to leave one unable to appreciate the many shades of grey to be found in between.
I happen to be a person who enjoys both concrete and abstract concepts, so I rarely find a conflict between art and science when it comes to my own personal enjoyment. Simply stated, a good blend can hold a wonder all its own independent of the intrigue of a well-crafted single malt. And Johnnie Walker Black Label just so happens to be a very good blend.
Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 Proof), 12 year age statement, blended Scotch whisky, mid-to-upper $30 range per 750 ml bottle.
Appearance: Caramel, burnt sugars, medium legs.
Nose: Charred oak, peat smoke, toffee candy, pecan rolls, over-ripened grapes.
Palate: Vanilla, butterscotch candy, peat smoke, glazed pecans.
Finish: Good amount of smoke without being overpowering, Medium burn, tapering towards the end to some nice nutty and sweet notes mingling with the lingering peat.
While this is far from being my favorite whisky, the fact of the matter is that a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label has the tendency to empty more quickly than virtually any other single bottle of whisky in my possession. It makes for a terrific opener to an evening of more intense Islay malts, but also serves as a perfectly suitable standalone drink. It is balanced remarkably well, which speaks to the value of competent blending.
Black Label is also a great ambassador for introducing newcomers to the world of smoky and peaty whiskies at a price point which won’t make one cry should they immediately dump their Glencairn glass as first taste. A great value for the money.