Johnnie Walker - Red / Black / Gold Comparison Review


What better way to mark the opening of the new Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh than with a tasting of a trio of whiskies from the biggest brand in scotch.

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Red Label

For those that don’t know Red Label was created by the Johnnie Walker company in 1909, and is the worlds best selling blended scotch.

What's in it?

Good question! Well we know it’s a blend of up to to 35 malt and grain whiskies from all over Scotland, but the exact composition is kept a closely guarded secret.

Nose

Tropical fruits, pineapple, mango. banana, pipe Tobacco, creamy vanilla ice-cream. there’s a hint of new make in the background, but not as prominent as we were expecting.

Palate

Roasted coffee beans, hint of smoke, tingly white pepper, quite grassy, some earthy branches. Finish dissipates quickly but leaves lingering smoke.

Nose (water)

The peat is lost along with the fruit, but some more malty bready notes appear. It is quite thin on the nose here, probably partly to do with the low alcohol level.

Palate (water)

Bitter coffee, toffee, thin, really thin. Still quite dirty but the peat has vanished.

Conclusion

Given Red Label is the entry level JW, and is recommended to be used in cocktails, our expectations were low. Fortunately, we were all pleasantly surprised by this. The nose was great with lots of fresh tropical fruits. Sadly we were let down a little when we got to the taste, as all of those sought after fruity notes seemed to be missing, replaced instead with a more smokey, richer character. At £15, we could see a reason to have this as a staple on your bar. Just remember to avoid adding water as you’ll ruin the whisky.

Score: 7/10

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Next up is Black Label. This is a blend of more than 30 single malt and grain whiskies from the four corners of Scotland.

Nose

Cream filled doughnut, freshly chopped oak, this has an earthy mineral quality to it. Dark syrupy molasses, Hazelnut, and Liquorice.

Palate

More nuttiness, akin to a walnut whip. Melty dark chocolate that coats the mouth nicely. Touch of coffee in the background. Quite a lot of flavour going on for 40%. Finish is short.

Nose (water)

Citrus fruits come to the forefront. This still maintains its bready, yeasty character. Nice little bit of sherbet at the end.

Palate (water)

Almost like orange tango, there’s a fizziness on the tongue with more citrus than before. There’s also some coffee and tobacco notes in the background that last into the finish.

Conclusion

At £27, this is fine. It’s got more of a deeper, richer character than red label, so if you like those flavour profiles then you’ll probably enjoy this. Good quality/value ratio.

Score: 7/10

Johnnie Walker Gold Label 

Johnnie Walker Gold Label

Last up is Gold Label. This is the replacement for Gold Label 18. It's structured around single malt whisky from Clynelish.

Nose

Buttery, waxy, oily, freshly harvested honey, some apple, and toasted oak.

Palate

Caramel, honey, chocolate notes, quite smooth but the finish disappears too quickly. Still quite mouth coating, some icing sugar but it's a bit boring and one note to be honest. Even without water, it barely tastes of alcohol.

Nose (water)

Some more toffee, notes of sherry and warming spices appear. This still maintains its buttery character throughout.

Palate (water)

Nutmeg and ginger spice appears, but it has the consistent sweet caramel notes from pre-dilution.

Interestingly, it tastes more alcoholic and tingly when you add water which isn’t what we’d have expected.

Conclusion

It’s quite disappointing in a sense - this is marketed as one of the more premium blends from JW’s collection, but at double the price of red and black, it doesn’t deliver the additional quality we’d expect. This does have some signature Clynleish notes, so if you’re a fan of the distillery and want a staple blend on your shelf, it might be for you.

Score: 6/10

  • 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
  • 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
  • 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
  • 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
  • 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
  • 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
  • 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
  • 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
  • 2 - Pour it out
  • 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.

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