Before it was famously (or infamously) awarded 94 points by Jim Murray, Johnnie Walker Black Label was already a celebrated whisky. Consequently, we decided to give it a full review through our matrix to see whether it’s really worth the hype.
Admittedly, I had never tasted it before myself! Therefore, we will discover Johnnie Walker Black Label together as we explore the following topics:
Overview Of Johnnie Walker Black Label
- Distillery: Johnnie Walker
- Expression: Black Label
- Region: N/A [Blend]
- Age: 12 Years
- Casking: Ex-Bourbon
- Cask Strength: 40% ABV
- Chill-Filtered: Yes
- Parent: Jim Beam Suntory
Indeed, many enthusiasts will often credit Black Label as the whisky that started their passion! As this will be my first experience of Johnnie Walker, I won’t be tasting it through nostalgic rose-tinted glasses.
On the other hand, you may argue that because I tried it only after so much time and hype, I might be unfairly critical of the blend. We’ll let the Bespoke Unit Whisky Matrix do the talking, then.
Black Label On Reserve Bar ON SALE For $36!
Johnnie Walker Black Label’s Robe
- Hue: Amber
- Transparency: Clear
- Body: Medium-Bodied
Although it has an alluring amber hue, I’ve heard that Black Label uses E150 artificial colouring. Therefore, I’m not sure to what extent I can trust it. Similarly, Black Label is supposed to be chill filtered. Still, it produced some slight viscometric swirls when I added a few droplets of water.
Nevertheless, it’s a clear liquid that when swirled in my Peugeot Les Impitoyables whisky glass, produces ravishing legs. Very slow to reveal themselves, they’re thick and spread apart as they ooze down the size of the glass.
Black Label’s Nose
- Notes: Honey, Cassonade, Marmalade, Cloves
- Nosefeel: Peppery
I find that although it produces a warm and peppery nosefeel, the overall aroma is somewhat thin. Nevertheless, there is an element of intensity even if it is quite mild.
Its initial notes are quite smooth with a honey texture. This is emphasised by an unrefined cassonade sugar note before glutinous marmalade fills the nostrils. Additionally, I picked up a hint of spice that was reminiscent of cloves.
Black Label’s Palate & Mouthfeel
- Primary Tastes: Sweet, Sour
- Mouthfeel: Oily, Warming
- Opening: Blood Orange, Honey, Vanilla
- Heart: Toffee, Leather, Seaweed
- Finish: Medium-Long [Pepper, Mincemeat, Creosote]
Overall, Johnnie Walker Black Label offers a contrasting sweet and sour primary profile, which is extended by its oily yet warming mouthfeel. Swirling the liquid around my palate, it opens with a richer citrus note of blood orange, caramelised honey, and a soft vanilla note.
Personally, I feel that Black Label’s opening is somewhat anti-climactic. Nevertheless, it picks up well by the time it makes its way to the heart. By this time, it really stimulates the palate and I experienced thick toffee, meaty leather as well as a brine seaweed note.
However, it was the finish that was the most interesting experience. Firstly, it’s exceedingly peppery yet a mulled mincemeat flavour still manages to pull through. Meanwhile, a creosote aroma lingers on the palate for a mildly smoky finish.
At 40%, few people will feel a need to add water to the whisky. Still, a few drops does help open up some of the notes and the smoky flavours will particularly benefit from this. Given that it can be quite peppery, this may help reduce the overall alcohol bloom.
Best Pairings With Johnnie Walker Black Label
Thanks to its smoky notes, peppery profile, and mincemeat finish, I’d argue that this is a great choice for around Christmas time. It would pair wonderfully with mince pies or Christmas cake. Similarly, you could consider enjoying it with a few slices of smoked salmon.
For cigar enthusiasts, this is a surprisingly versatile beverage. That being said, I would try to match the dram with a cigar of the appropriate budget. Personally, I found it went particularly well with flavoursome cigars that weren’t overly full-bodied.
A good example would be the Camacho Corojo. On this occasion, I happened to have a Distillery Edition Corojo and their flavours harmoniously married together.
Overall Experience & Value For Money
Between its square shape and slanted sticker, Johnnie Walker Black Label is probably one of the most recognisable whiskies on the market. Overall, it’s quite well-presented and iconic enough to continue attracting attention.
As for the packaging, it has both character and subtle elegance by making a nod to the slanted sticker and adding a few golden silhouettes that echo its old logo.
In terms of occasion, this is a very versatile whisky that can be brought out just about any time. Being quite affordable, it’s a great option to take to parties. While some will probably mix it, we’ve demonstrated above that it’s pleasant to sip neat. Conversely, it’s quite pleasant to enjoy at home.
As mentioned above, Black Label is far from expensive and presents excellent value for money with a $49 RRP. We’ve checked out a few prices online and they seem to be pretty consistent.
Although I understand why many whisky enthusiasts started their journey thanks to Black Label, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to novices. Ultimately, it does have the distinctive flavour profile of a blended Scotch whisky.
For those who really want to discover whisky, the best place to begin would be a single malt. I honestly don’t know whether I’m being elitist or controversial by saying this. However, I feel that it would create an unfair perspective if starting from here.
Nevertheless, it’s still a great expression for what it represents. Its flavours are rich, balanced, and very enjoyable indeed. Perhaps after experiencing a few single malts first, it may be a good option to have when supplies are running low or if you just fancy a cheap dram.
"A warming and peppery experience. For a blended Scotch whisky, Black Label is an excellent expression. Nevertheless, it should be regarded for what it is rather than comparing it a single malt, which are altogether different."Rating: 5.0 ★★★★
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