Johnnie Walker Black Label Review

Johnnie Walker Black Label016

43% abv

Score:  88.5/100


After several attempts at writing this review (and a lot of time with my finger on the ‘backspace’ key) I decided to scrap it all and simplify it down to this level…

I love this stuff.

Simple as that.  Johnnie Walker Black deserves a spot on every whisky drinker’s shelf (damn you, single malt purists!  Hide your bias…disguise your face if need be…and buy this).  It knocks the socks off the Red Label and sparkles through its complexity when held up against the Blue Label.  Its intricate myriad layers, delivered though a marriage of more than 40 individual whiskies (none of which is younger than 12 years), present such a gorgeous cohesive whole that I am truly taken aback.

Deliciously intense and deep, the JWB is engagingly mysterious and enormous.  The arrival is a rollercoaster of smoothness and subtlety…into warmth and bite…and finally into fruit and toffee.  The hills and valleys of this whisky are simply part of the landscape that rolls by.  No one feature obscuring any other.  Man…this is what balance in a whisky is all about.

The nose is warm caramel or toffee…diffuse peat and smoke…silky malted barley and tart fruity notes.  Something like a bitter berry perhaps.  This is all carried to the palate, with the grains and fruit taking center stage.  The finish is entirely pleasant and dominated by a sweet honeyed fruitiness.  Sprinkle the whole offering with a light dusting of warm winter spice, and this is absolutely the closest I can get to describing Johnnie Walker Black Label.

No long-winded diatribes necessary here.  This really is all you need to know.  Utterly exceptional blending, and very possibly my favorite blended whisky on the market.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

12 thoughts on “Johnnie Walker Black Label Review

  1. Robert

    I picked up my first Double Black for $35 recently and have been enjoying it greatly. I have even been passing up my single malts for it! Even Corryvrecken! Scary, but it really is good. What the heck is in it? Anyone else had this?

  2. Jeff

    Here’s a chunk of PR copy from something called “The Tasting Panel” magazine (?) that might answer your question:

    It’s the smokiness that really sets it apart. This is due to the fact that Double Black not only uses a greater percentage of smoky single malts—such as Caol Ila and Lagavulin from Islay—than Black Label, but younger versions of these whiskies as well, which tend to have a greater concentration of peat. Thus, unlike 12 Year Old Black Label, there is no age statement on Double Black.


    1. Robert

      I had noticed the Caol Ila and Lagavulin for sure. Appears to have a hint of Talisker as well. What was really interesting was the similarity to Laga DE (fruitiness). Actually prefer this to Green or Black, but I’m a CI and (especially) a Laga fan, so it makes sense. Quite smooth and works well both neat or with a little water. I’m picking up a couple more at this price. Great cold weather warmer!

      Thanks for the info, Jeff!

  3. PiggDogg

    Like the reviewer, when considering its high quality, ubiquitousness, & price point, I too love JW Black 12. Well nigh every decent bar & restaurant in the US & probably the world have JW Black 12. When you order it neat, you know that you will have a good experience at a decent price. It’s 5 points out of 5.

    1. PiggDogg

      Oh, I forgot. Unless there is something that I don’t know, the JW Black 12 that I have here in New Orleans is 40% ABV, not 43%.

  4. Kurt

    I recently discovered your web site, and have enjoyed it due to 1) it’s honesty, and 2) an apparent bias towards more robust, classic single malt whisky. While I lack your colorful vocabulary, I have to say that your review of JW Black is a real outlier vs. your other reviews on this site. I was previously uninterested in JW Black, but gave it a chance based on your review, and that it might be a good value in whisky. Quite simply, the JW Black lacks personality. Rather than detecting some faint trace of Lagavulin or Talisker, give me the real, unadulterated single malt. Further, I wouldn’t dare add water to the JW Black because it is already watered down. However, there are some positives to this experience: 1) a re-affirmation of the majestic character of classic single malts, and 2) a diminished interest in JW Blue, if it is indeed on par with the Black.

  5. White Dynamite

    This is my first visit to your site and since stumbling upon it over an hour ago I’ve probably read about 20 of your reviews. I haven’t disagreed with a single review yet. Though I was disappointed in your Bowmore 25yo review having recently purchased a bottle for later consumption.
    You are the first author I’ve read that shares my appreciation for JW Black as a go-to dram. “Did we just become best friends!?”

    Anyway, I appreciate the insightful and witty work your doing here.


    1. ATW Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, White Dynamite. Glad to have you around. There are some rather vocal folks that like to comment here. I think you’ll like ’em.

      Cheers and Happy New Year.


  6. Jeff

    Has anybody noticed any falling off with Black Label recently? I went through a 200ml a little while ago and, although the malt content was still OK, it seems to have moved an appreciable distance toward the Red in terms of palate and mouthfeel. As a driver, the Talisker is WAY pulled back – the diversion, I guess, of all that stuff that they’re NOT holding for 10 years anymore, much less 12. It’s not really a standout anymore, even as a blend, so I shudder to think what they’ve done with the reformulated Green.

    1. ATW Post author

      Absolutely agree. We opened a couple bottles at a recent event. Underwhelming, to say the least. Like you said, still OK, but not too much beyond that. The price here, though, has also become somewhat ridiculous. About $50 a bottle now. I can find some entry level single malts for that kind of price point.

      As an aside, I do have open bottles of Blue, Black, Double Black and Red. Planning to open a Green as well. We’ll do a little JW tasting soon, and share some notes here.

      1. Jeff

        Yes, it would be interesting to see some of those revisited, particularly in the context that a lot of JW pricing DOES seem to be pacing that of standard and premium single malts. Although I prefer single malts and pot stills, Black Label used to be solid alternative as a neat sipper, but I can’t really recommend it anymore, particularly for the money. I’m interested on your take on the ‘new” Green, given that it’s still 15 years and a vat. It might not have changed at all, given that

        “Dr Morgan emphasised that the formulation of Green Label, which bears a 15-year-old age statement, had not changed since its exit from the Johnnie Walker range.” –

        but I’d still like another opinion.


        1. David

          I’ve only tried the original Green. The reboot has not been available in my neck of the woods but I read that it is not quite as good.

          The first time is always the most memorable…

          My first Costa Rican coffee….
          My first Nicaraguan coffee…
          My first Aberlour A’Bunadh…

          The only thing that has stayed as awesome as the first time has been my first Amrut Peated Cask Strength. Using the Ashok Method, of course. But All my tastings from this fabulous whisky have been batch 12…


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