Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Black Label, 12 year old, Blended Scotch Whisky
Up next on this brief series, we have another of those ubiquitous Johnnie Walker whiskies found almost everywhere, the Johnnie Walker Black Label, a 12-year old blended scotch that, for many, represents an initial foray into the world of “peated” whiskies. Whereas the Red Label is a No Age Stated whisky, the Black Label, with what I suspect is a higher malt content, and with its 12 years of maturation, begins to demonstrate some of the refinement, richness, and breadth of flavors that scotch whisky fans seek!
Review: Johnnie Walker Black Label, 12 year old, Blended Scotch Whisky, 40% abv, Bottled 2015, L5321CA000 29274188
Color: amber-gold with an orange cast.
Nose: (N) earthy scents; dust, damp wood, vegetation, a briny note and a faint smoke. Melted butter. Some fruit, more citric than apple or pear, and grassy notes creep in, but remain subtly in the background. Tobacco and leather. There are a wide range of aromas, but they are all very muted, nothing to give it an individual identity. Barrel char smokiness. (W) More of a citric start with lemon zest, cinnamon, fruity sweetness – pears, plums, and red apples. There are some spices; ginger and cinnamon, and a slight mustiness. Oaky notes and a hint of some nuts. Now some sea-spray, crisp and light peat, and juniper notes that likely represents the Caol Ila influence. A surprising hint of chocolate late, all with a perpetual soft smoke floating around the edges.
Taste: (N) soft, but slightly spicy initial delivery, a bit of smoke, then showing a fruitier side, with apples, pears, and plums, accompanied by a dash of fresh lemon. Some butterscotch and vanilla sweetness in the middle, then it becomes increasingly malty, More of the soft smoke and tannic dryness in the later stages. (W) With water – just a few drops – on the nose the fruits are more immediately evident; ripe pears, plums, and apples. More of the Caol Ila juniper/peat notes. A very light smoke, the mustiness, oak spices, brininess, and that hint of chocolate. On the palate, the water evens out the flavors, but the mouthfeel becomes a bit thin.
Finish: The finish is reasonably long, softly tangy, nicely sweet, before becoming drying with a slightly bitter, ashy ending.
Overall: Vastly superior to the Red Label in all measures: nose, body, palate, and finish. There is a nice delicate peat influence that may underwhelm confirmed peat heads, but serves well to introduce this historical characteristic of Scotch whisky. Also, I suspect that the Black Label has a much higher malt:grain ratio than the Red Label. With its additional aging, the Black Label shows levels of balance and integration that the Red Label sadly lacks.
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: 12 years
Price: $29.99 – Total Wines (750 ml)
Sample Source: My own bottle