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Johnnie Walker Black Label Review

Johnnie Walker Black Label Review: The Swiss Army Knife of Blended Whisky


If you’re not an avid Scotch whisky drinker, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the spirit. The distillery names alone are enough to stop you in your tracks – Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Glenlivet; there are almost 150 distilleries currently operating (with more opening every year) in Scotland. To add to that, there are five whisky regions, various types of Scotch whisky and even more releases to sink your teeth. Chief among them, however, is Johnnie Walker – the eponymous label responsible for arguably the world’s most popular blended whisky.

So, with the brand holding a steady grasp on the global Scotch industry, we deemed it appropriate to dive deep into the label’s most famous drops, starting first with its classic release. In this Johnnie Walker Black Label review, we take a look at the iconic blended Scotch whisky, how it is made and what sets this unique drop apart from others in the category.

Johnnie Walker Black Label
Johnnie Walker Black Label | Image: Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker Black Label

  • Brand: Johnnie Walker
  • Release: Black Label
  • Style: Blended Scotch Whisky
  • ABV: 40%
  • Age Statement: 12 Year Old
  • Price: Around AUD$50

When it comes to value bottles of Scotch whisky, it’s hard to beat the appeal of Johnnie Walker Black Label. This popular blended Scotch whisky is a mix of single malt and grain whiskies from distilleries all over Scotland, including Clynelish, Cardhu, Glenknichie, Cameronbridge, and Caol Ila. There are around 40 different whiskies included in total.

All the whiskies included in this iconic blend have matured for a minimum of twelve full years. The result is a complex, very well-balanced, sweet, smoky, memorable whisky. It’s the kind of whisky you’ll want to keep on your home bar cart for mixing in your favourite cocktails and slow sipping neat, on the rocks, or with a splash or two of water.

Johnnie Walker Black Label Review
Johnnie Walker Black Label | Image: Johnnie Walker

What Makes a Blended Scotch Whisky?

For those new to Scotch whisky, a single malt Scotch whisky is a whisky that’s made with only malted barley, distilled using pot stills, is made at a single distillery, and is matured for at least three full years. On the other hand, blended Scotch whisky is a blend of single malt and grain whiskies from multiple distilleries. One of the most popular styles of Scotch whisky, there are countless brands available, but the most well-known and readily available is Johnnie Walker.

What are the Different Varieties of Johnnie Walker?

When it comes to Johnnie Walker, while there are some limited-edition expressions, there are many choices in the “Colour Range”.  The lowest and most inexpensive is the no-age-statement Johnnie Walker Red Label.

It’s followed by Johnnie Walker Black Label (aged for twelve years), Johnnie Walker Double Black Label (with more peated whiskies matured in heavily charred barrels), Johnnie Walker Green Label (aged for fifteen years), Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (no age statement, but it’s believed to be around eighteen years old), Johnnie Walker Platinum Label (aged for eighteen years), and the highly prized Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

By far the most beloved of the brand’s Colour Range, it doesn’t have an age statement, but it’s believed to be made up of the brand’s most special and limited whiskies.

Johnnie Walker Black Label Review
Johnnie Walker Black Label | Image: Christopher Osburn

How Much Does Johnnie Walker Black Label Cost?

This award-winning, smoky, sublimely smooth blended whisky sells for around $50 in Australia. If you think that’s pricey, you should understand that even though this is a blended Scotch whisky and one that’s on the brand’s lower end, it’s a blend of whiskies that are all a minimum of twelve years old.

What Does it Smell Like?

If you take a moment to nose this whisky, you’ll be greeted with crème brulee, dried cherries, candied orange peels, white pepper, baking spices, and oaky wood. It’s the kind of whisky that has so many aromas to unlock, you might not find them all the first time you nose it. There’s no harshness on this nose. This is a mellow, easy-drinking whisky. It’s fruity, sweet, lightly spicy, and very welcoming.

What Does Johnnie Walker Black Label Taste like?

The first thing you’ll notice when you sip Johnnie Walker Black Label is the enveloping smoke that mingles throughout. On top of that, you’ll find a ton of cereal grains, toasted barley, candied orange peels, a gentle nutty sweetness, caramelized sugar, dried fruits, and light spices.

The finish is warming, medium in length, and filled with sweet smoke. While some of the more well-known peat-smoked single malt Scotch whiskies are a little robust, Johnnie Walker Black Label has the smoke, but it’s surprisingly smooth and easy to drink. This is a great gateway whisky for those hoping to get more into single malts, specifically those from Islay.

Johnnie Walker Black Label Review
Johnnie Walker Black Label | Image: Christopher Osburn

Johnnie Walker Black is popular for multiple reasons. When it comes to blended Scotch whisky, you’d be hard-pressed to find an expression with a better value-to-price ratio. For a fairly inexpensive bottle at around $50 (for 750ml), it’s an expertly curated blend of around forty whiskies. Some single malt and some single grain, but all at least twelve years old. If you compare that to a twelve-year-old single malt, you might end up spending ten, twenty, or more dollars to buy it.

How to Enjoy It

Johnnie Walker Black Label, because of the liquid inside and its low price, is a very versatile whisky. It’s not the kind of expression where you’ll feel bad about using it to mix into an old fashioned, whisky sour, a hot toddy during the winter months, or any of your favourite whisky-based cocktails. But it’s also complex and nuanced enough to be an everyday sipper. Drink it neat, on the rocks, or with a splash or two of water. We’re not here to judge. Drink it any way you like. Stock it on your home bar or bar cart and you’ll definitely find uses for it.

Johnnie walker black label 4
Johnnie Walker Black Label | Image: Johnnie Walker

Is Johnnie Walker Black Label Worth It?

As far as whisky releases go, Johnnie Walker Black Label is far from a top-shelf dram, however, it’s one of the best value-for-money Scotch whiskies on the market. The unique flavour profile makes it incredibly versatile, particularly if you are working with cocktails and mixology. From a basic perspective, the complexity, balance, and overall quality of Johnnie Walker Black Label make the price tag worth it. Honestly (and don’t tell the folks at Diageo), we’d pay even more than $50 for a whisky of this level. When it comes to must-have Scotch whiskies, it’s the equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife of the whisky world. It can do anything.

Why You Should Trust Our Reviews

When it comes to reviewing whisky, we take objectivity very seriously. Under our strict editorial guidelines, you can be sure that no brand has paid for a drinks review and all opinions are entirely impartial. The author of this review, Christopher Osburn, is an expert in the field having spent more than 15 years writing about and reviewing drinks products. His reviews have appeared in a number of global publications, including Men’s Journal, Thrillist, Esquire, Food & Wine, Uproxx, Matador, and Maxim.