Johnnie Walker is the most widely distributed blended Scotch whisky brand in the world, so there’s a good chance you’ll run (excuse the pun) into their whiskies frequently. But with several different expressions you’re going to want to know the best ways to drink each of them. Well, I’ve done the work for you (the kind I like to do) and here’s what I’ve found.
The best ways to drink Johnnie Walker whiskies are:
|Whisky||Best Way to Drink|
|Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years||Neat / With Ice|
|Johnnie Walker Double Black||Neat / Rusty Nail|
|Johnnie Walker Red Label||Cocktails & Mixed Drinks|
|Johnnie Walker Blue Label||Neat / With Water|
|Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve||Neat|
|Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Years||Neat / With Water|
|Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years||Neat|
These are the seven main whiskies that make up the Johnnie Walker Core Range (for a full review of them see the article I wrote about it here) and in the rest of this article, I’ll go into the best way to drink each of them in more detail.
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 – Neat / With Ice
The best ways to drink Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years is neat or with ice. That’s because it has a decent depth to it with some nice, well-balanced flavors. This should not be surprising considering it’s a blend of up to 40 single malt and grain whiskies from across Scotland (including Cardhu, Clynelish, Coal Ila and Glenkinchie) each of which have been aged for at least 12 years.
Black Label can easily be enjoyed neat because it’s sweet, malty, mildly peaty, mildly smoky and smooth. There are no off notes that you may have expected from the grain whiskies in the blend – the 12 years of maturation has seen to that, so it doesn’t need to be mixed with something else to hide any unpleasant flavors or rough edges.
That being said, it’s not a complex whisky with lots of unique and interesting flavors that you need to spend time sipping neat so you can fully explore it. It’s an uncomplicated whisky, for times you want something simple and easy to drink that doesn’t require too much thought, but if you want to pick up its flavors you’ll still need to drink it neat.
Some people find that adding ice improves the whisky, bringing out more of the sweet and smoky character and at the same time reducing some of the grain alcohol notes coming from the grain whiskies in the blend.
It is also cheap enough (about $40 for 750ml) to be used for cocktails, mixed drinks and shots – remember it’s also sweet and smooth which combined with cheap is what you want for whisky shots, but keep in mind, it’s also the price of very nice single malt, so while it’s not terrible if you mix Black Label with something, it’s also not the best way to drink it.
Johnnie Walker Double Black – Neat / Rusty Nail
Johnnie Walker Double Black is similar to the Black Label but is a blend of whiskies that were matured in deep charred (hence the name) barrels to give the final expression a smokier flavor. It may be significantly younger than the Black Label, (it has no age statement but obviously the whiskies in the blend must be at least three years old, which is much younger than the 12) but despite that some think the deep charred barrels gives it more flavors too.
That’s why it’s also a sweet and smooth, easy to drink whisky that’s not overly complex but with some nice, well-balanced flavors and no off notes (thanks again to the deep charred barrels). It’s also why it’s smokier than the Black Label.
Which is why the best way to drink Double Black is also neat. Especially for those who enjoy peat and smoke flavors but not too much peat and smoke flavors, or for those who want to a gentle introduction to them. Adding ice in the case would probably not be a good idea as it would reduce the smokiness which is the whole point of this whisky.
It’s only a little more expensive than the Black Label (about $48 for 750ml) so again it’s cheap enough to be used for cocktails, mixed drinks and shots, but again this is the price of an even more expensive single malt, so it’s probably not the best way to drink the Double Black. I would make an exception for a Rusty Nail as there the sweetness of the Drambuie balances really well with the smoky notes of the Double Black.
Johnnie Walker Red Label – Cocktails & Mixed Drinks
Johnnie Walker Red Label is the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world. Yet it’s young (it has no age statement) and has some off notes from the grain whiskies in the blend so is not something that is meant to be enjoyed neat. I mean you can, it’s not disgusting or unpleasant and it does contain some good whisky, it’s just uninteresting as a neat pour and contains some off notes.
The best way to drink Red Label is in cocktails and mixed drinks. Despite anything negative, it contains some good whisky, it has some good flavors, and it has a great price (about $35 for 1L). That also explains why Red Label is the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world.
Some mixers that go well with Johnnie Walker Red Label are:
|Soda water||1 part Johnnie Walker & 3 parts soda water|
|Apple juice||1 part Johnnie Walker & 3 parts apple juice|
|Coca-Cola||1 part Johnnie Walker & 3 parts Coca-Cola|
|Lemonade||1 part Johnnie Walker & 3 parts lemonade|
|Ginger ale||1 part Johnnie Walker & 3 parts ginger ale|
Mixing Red Label with soda water reduces the alcohol but keeps much of the flavor of the whisky. Lime, lemon or grapefruit flavored soda water does the same, but also adds a light and refreshing element. Coca Cola, lemonade and ginger ale add their more distinctive flavors.
Some popular whisky cocktails that taste great with Johnnie Walker Red Label include:
- Old fashioned
- Whiskey sour
- Whiskey penicillin
- Hot toddy
- Rob Roy
Some cocktail suggestion from Johnnie Walker themselves are:
Johnnie & Peach
- 1½fl oz of Johnnie Walker Red Label
- 5fl oz of sparkling peach iced tea
- Peach and thyme or lemon wedge
- Pour the Johnnie Walker Red Label over ice
- Add the sparkling peach iced tea and stir
- Add fresh peach and thyme or lemon wedge
Johnnie & Elderflower
- 1½fl oz of Johnnie Walker Red Label
- 1fl oz of elderflower cordial
- 3½fl oz of soda water
- Lemon thyme or mint sprig
- Pour Johnnie Walker Red Label over ice
- Add elderflower cordial and soda water and stir
- Add lemon twist and lemon thyme or mint sprig
Johnnie Walker Blue Label – Neat / With Water
The best ways to drink Johnnie Walker Blue Label are neat and with water. That’s because it’s probably the most flavorful of the entire Johnnie Walker range. The brand says that it’s a blend of ‘rare Scotch whiskies with a remarkable depth of flavor’ and it is a (relatively) complex, delicious and smooth whisky that has a lot of varied and well-balanced flavors.
It also extremely drinkable, which means one of the best ways to drink Blue Label is neat. Repeatedly.
Also, it’s very expensive for what it is (about $250 for 750ml) so you probably wouldn’t buy a bottle yourself, but if you do somehow, find yourself with a glass or bottle of Blue Label it would be a shame to waste it by using it for cocktails, mixed drinks or shots.
It’s also good to drink this with water. That’s because adding water gets the whisky to open up and release all its flavors. Blue Label has the most flavors of all the Johnnie Walker whiskies so you’re going to want to make sure you bring them all out. Carefully though, a few drops at a time. This is still expensive stuff that you don’t want to dilute too much.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve – Neat
The Gold Label Reserve is another Johnnie Walker expression that is best enjoyed neat. It has lots of different and tasty flavors that work well together and is very smooth and drinkable. Again, it’s not something too complex, but a simple and uncomplicated, easy to drink whisky that will give you a lot of flavors if you drink it neat.
Another reason to drink the Gold Label Reserve neat is because of how it’s made. Like all Johnnie Walker expressions, it’s a blend but this time although it contains 15 different whiskies, it’s built around a single malt from Clynelish. If you’re a fan of Clynelish whiskies, then you’ll definitely want to drink this whisky neat.
It’s not as expensive as the Blue Label (it’s about $80 for 750ml) so it wouldn’t be as bad if you used it for cocktails or mixed drinks but it is a step up from the Black Label in both flavor and price so it certainly wouldn’t be the first option. On the other hand, sometimes it’s good to use a high-quality whisky to make a high-quality cocktail.
Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 – Neat / With Water
This whisky has a lot going for it. Firstly, it’s not a blended whisky but a blended malt whisky. Blended whiskies contain both malt and grain whiskies, but blended malt whiskies contain only single malt whiskies – which avoids the problem of harsh notes from the grain whisky that you often get in blends.
Secondly, all the whiskies in this blend have been aged for at least 15 years which is a fairly good length of time for a Scotch. Thirdly, it’s bottled at 43%ABV which is higher than most Johnnie Walker expressions that are usually bottled at 40%ABV. Finally, it’s probably the best value for money being relatively inexpensive for what it is (about $67 for 750ml).
That’s why Green Label is a tasty, easy to drink whisky that’s sweet, very smooth with a lot of well-balanced flavors. And that’s why the best way to drink it is neat.
Because this whisky has a higher ABV than the other Johnnie Walker expressions it’s also a good idea to drink this whisky with a few drops of water – for two reasons. First, depending on your tolerance you may want to dilute the alcohol to make the whisky a bit more palatable. Second, since it’s the alcohol that keeps a whisky’s flavors locked up, having a higher ABV than usual will mean it’s more necessary than usual to add some water to release them.
Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years – Neat
The best way to drink Johnnie Walker 18 is neat. It may be a blend of malt and grain whiskies, but they’ve all been aged for at least 18 years, which makes this a great whisky. It’s sweet and smooth with a lot of well-balanced flavors that make it tasty and very easy to drink. Like the other Johnnie Walker expressions is a simple, uncomplicated drink but it has enough flavors that make it best to drink neat.
It’s relatively cheap (about $94 for 750ml) for an 18 year old blended Scotch whisky, but not cheap enough to be used for cocktails or mixed drinks.
Also, some people think that while this is a good whisky it would be even better at 43%ABV and not 40%ABV. That means it may not be the best idea to dilute it further by adding water.
You can buy Johnnie Walker whiskies at drizly.com here.