Although I’ve enjoyed American whiskey for years, I’m a Scotch newbie. The idea of a peaty, smoky whisky intimidated me. So I started my Scotch adventures with some sweeter and fruitier Scotch whiskies, such as Glenlivet 12 and The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask (full reviews coming soon). Johnnie Walker is such a giant brand, so that was my next stop. Diageo was kind enough to send me samples of most of the Johnnie Walker lineup, including the focus of this post, Double Black. I sampled and tasted them all several times, but waited to taste this one last. It was worth the wait.
Johnnie Walker Master Blender Jim Beveridge took the dark, smoky notes from Johnnie Walker Black Label and amplified them to create Johnnie Walker Double Black. This is the smokiest JW blend thus far (to my knowledge). The press release states Johnnie Walker Double Black contains some single malts from smaller distilleries on Scotland’s west coast. This whisky retails for about $42. So, how is it?
(Note: I was sent a review sample from Diageo.) Right up front is some light caramel and dried fruit (raisin, maybe) sweetness. Then there’s a sweet smoke, and buried underneath is grape, citrus, charred oak, vanilla and citrus. I get a burst of toffee on entry. A small fresh mint note appears, and almost immediately a peat smoke creeps in. It soon turns into what I describe as sweet barbecue smoke and vanilla taffy. Buried a little deeper is an herbal note and a slight sour note, a cross between orange juice and apple cider vinegar. Finally, we end with a sweet smoky finish, with a little fresh fruit (think honeydew melon).
The charred oak and smoky aromas and flavors are much more pronounced here in Double Black versus Johnnie Walker Black Label. The smoke isn’t cloying though. It sits on a sweet toffee and dried fruit foundation, and the different aromas and flavors play off each other really well. I really enjoyed this whisky. Good stuff.