Johnnie Walker is the most recognizable name in whiskey. Even non-whiskey drinkers know the brand. The JW brand can be traced back to John Walker’s grocery store in the early 1800s, when he started selling whisky and other spirits. It was illegal to sell blended whisky in Scotland until 1860. A few years later, John’s son Alexander began selling their own blended whisky, “Old Highland Whisky.” The brand’s famous slanted label came about in the 1870s, allowing larger fonts and more text on the label. The signature square bottle was already in place. In 1906, the 12 year old Black Label was introduced and two years later the brand changed names from Old Highland Whisky to Johnnie Walker. Currently, the range of the primary line of the brand includes the Red Label, 12 year old Black Label, the smoky Double Black, Gold Label Reserve, Platinum Label and the top-of-the-line Blue Label. There are also limited and one-time offerings, including the 15 year old Green Label and Johnnie Walker Swing.
The Black Label is a 12-year old blended Scotch whisky consisting of about 40 different malt and grain whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. It is one of the biggest selling blended whiskies in the world, if not the biggest.
(Note: I received a review sample from Diageo.) On the nose, I get some sweet toffee, light fruit, and some peat. There’s a little nuttiness (almonds), vanilla and cereal grain in the background. The entry on this whisky is soft, with that toffee and vanilla sweetness hitting hardest, immediately followed by a nutty note, slight brine, orange rind and a touch of smoke. The finish is relatively short with a slight sweet smokiness.
It is my understanding that blended whiskies are designed to be “smooth” and easy to drink when compared to single malt whiskies. That holds true with Johnnie Walker Black. All the aromas and flavors come together well, and at 40% abv there’s nothing rough here. Overall, very palatable and well constructed.