Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years Old
40% ABV, £25 for 70cl
What they say:
With its origins in the 1870’s Old Special Whisky, JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL became simply “BLACK LABEL” in 1909. It is regarded by experts as the ultimate Scotch deluxe whisky, the benchmark by which all others are measured.
Each bottle of BLACK LABEL will have been two decades in the planning and draws whisky from the finest distilleries across Scotland aged in the finest whisky casks. Each whisky is matured in a slightly different way, due to the intricacies of wood, climate and location. The Master Blenders’ skill is in blending these whiskies together to create a whisky with an extraordinary range of flavour.
A continued focus on quality and style has resulted in JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL earning numerous awards. Today the blend remains as rich and smooth as it was when John Walker’s son and grandson were Master Blenders. It has been called “a masterpiece, the Michelangelo’s David of the blender’s art, the very best in its category” – Charles Maclean, whisky writer, and “the Savoy, the Everest of deluxe whiskies” – Jim Murray, author of the ‘Whisky Bible’.
BLACK LABEL retains the authenticity of its creator and currently outsells every other deluxe Blended Scotch Whisky around the globe. That it’s stood the test of time is testament to the pioneering spirit and the skills of the Walker family.
JOHNNIE WALKER has the luxury of having exclusive access to Scotland’s very best whiskies, ranging from the powerful west coast malts all the way to the more subtle east coast flavours. BLACK LABEL draws upon all these aromas to create a unique blend with a smooth, deep and complex character.
It can be enjoyed on its own, with a dash of still or sparkling water, or with soda or ginger ale as a long drink.
The origins of JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL go back to when John Walker’s son Alexander took over in 1857. Realising the genius and untapped potential of his father’s blends, Alexander focused on expanding the whisky side of the business.
He drew inspiration from his father’s signature smoky style. And in 1867 he copyrighted ‘Old Highland Whisky’, which was the precursor of today’s JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL. By 1889, John Walker & Sons had businesses established in London, Sydney and Paris, and distribution agents appointed as widely as South Africa, America and India. At that time, few brands had such breadth of distribution.
By the 1890s Alexander II and George, the grandsons of John Walker, were running the business. Following the innovative spirit of their forebears and the principle of providing high quality whiskies, these men carved out a new vision, identifying ways to drive it to new levels of commercial success.
With marketing insight ahead of their time – the brothers understood the importance of producing an easily recognisable brand. The distinctive slanted black label was the key, and three years later in 1909 the words ‘BLACK LABEL’ appeared on the bottle for the very first time.
What I say:
Wow THEY have a lot to say! Received this as a gift from a new Whiskyphile who found he had too much JW black label volume but not enough liking for the stuff. Happy to oblige as I am always on the look out for something I haven’t tried before. JW black label must be one of the most talked about and highly acclaimed blended whiskies on the planet. Sadly I was severely unimpressed.
Earthy and peaty hints, carnauba wax and furniture polish, polished leather, faint savoury [woodland] honey undernotes
Waxy and oily in the mouth this has the faintest of peat prickles and a real fullness of flavour, the woodland honey returns with anise and nutmeg spices
Short, waxy then herbal vapours and hint of struck matches
Would I buy it again:
No, I suspect the rest of this bottle will mostly be used to make my coca-cola a little more alcoholic. There are some elements in here that interest me, but the whole experience of drinking it doesn’t fill me with joy. It is a little too earthy and waxy and doesn’t deliver any of the sherried fruits that the advertising suggests. Perhaps you need to grow to love JW Black label? It is certainly like no other whisky that I have tried, probably because it doesn’t really taste to me like whisky…