Is Johnnie Walker Good? A Detailed Look at 7 of Their Whiskies


Johnnie Walker is the most widely distributed blended Scotch whisky brand in the world, so clearly a lot of people think their whiskies are very good indeed. I wanted a bit more detail than that and to do my own hands-on research, and after only slightly more than the appropriate amount of investigation, here’s what I found.

Johnnie Walker whiskies are good. Most of them are sweet and smooth with a decent amount of well-balanced flavors. I would recommend Black Label 12 Years as it’s good yet relatively inexpensive, Green Label 15 Years as it’s better and the best value for money, and the 18 as it’s the most flavorful expression that’s not too expensive.

I examined the seven main whiskies that make up the Johnnie Walker’s Core Range and in the rest of this article I’ll detail exactly what I found, so you can see why I think Johnnie Walker whiskies are good.

3 bottles of Johnnie Walker - Black Label, Green Label & the 18

How I Determined Whether Johnnie Walker Whiskies Are Good

I didn’t want to present just my own personal opinion about these whiskies but rather a more general consensus, so I gathered a team of experts (translation: anyone who would help me with this project and who knows a thing or two about whisky) and amalgamated all our tasting notes. I left out those aromas and flavors that were found by only one person and focused on those experienced by more than one member of the group. Descriptors that appear earlier in the coming lists were detected by more people.

Everyone scored each whisky out of 100 and I calculated the average.

The notes after each table are my summary of the general consensus and the combined results present a pretty clear picture of these whiskies.

Here’s what we found:

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $39.99 approx. for 750ml & $72.31 approx. for 1.75L

Johnnie Walker is not a distillery that makes its own whisky but a brand that blends different types of whiskies, from different distilleries, from all over Scotland to make to make their own expressions.

That means malt whiskies and grain whiskies. That means peated whiskies and unpeated whiskies. That means whiskies with a richer, heavier character and whiskies that are more delicate. That means fruity whiskies, malty whiskies and smoky whiskies.

It also means the exact details of the whiskies that make up the Johnnie Walker expressions are somewhat elusive, but we do know they often include whisky from Cardhu (Speyside), Clynelish (Highlands), Coal Ila (Islay) and Glenkinchie (Lowlands).

Black Label is the original (after a couple of name changes at the beginning of the twentieth century) and signature expression of the brand. It’s a blend of up to 40 single malt and grain whiskies from across Scotland each of which have been aged for at least 12 years.

ColorDark copper, gold
NoseHoney, smoke, malt, peat, caramel, oak, vanilla, toffee, butterscotch, grains
TasteLight peat, malt, smoke, vanilla, honey, pepper, grains, toffee, raisins, caramel, apples
FinishShort-Medium: Smoke, peat, sweet
Average Score – 80

We found the Black Label to be a good, enjoyable whisky. It’s sweet, malty, mildly peated, mildly smoky and smooth, and while a bit thin and watery it has no off notes – the 12 years of maturation has clearly tamed some of the harsh notes from the grain whisky that we expected to find. It’s not that complex but it has a decent depth, and its flavors are nice and well balanced.

It is true that nothing stands out in this whisky, but in a blend that wants to appeal to a wider audience, nothing’s supposed to. Some experienced whisky drinkers will prefer a super complex and unique whisky with lots of interesting flavors that need time to be explored but the wider audience may prefer a less complicated whisky that’s easy to drink without too much work.

And sometimes even experienced whisky drinkers want that too.

You can buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years here.

2 bottles of Johnnie Walker – Double Black & Red Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $47.99 approx. for 750ml & $57.99 approx. for 1L

Similar to the Black Label (which is why it’s called the younger sibling), Johnnie Walker Double Black is also a blend of both malt and grains whiskies, but this time selected from whiskies that were matured in deep charred (hence the name) barrels to give the final expression a smokier flavor.

The other difference between the two whiskies is that the Double Black has no age statement (although obviously all its whiskies are at least three years old). Since as mentioned, we thought it was the 12 years maturation of the Black Label that had tamed the harsh notes from the grain whisky it contained, with no age statement for the Double Black we expected to find a lot more of them.

ColorAmber
NoseOak, smoke, vanilla, cherry, light peat, honey, caramel, light smoke, brine, apples
TasteVanilla, smoke, peat, fruit, oak, smoked meat, brown sugar, caramel, cherries, lemon, spices, char
FinishShort – medium: Smoke, grain, charred oak, pepper, sweet
Average Score – 78

But we didn’t. Instead, we found the Double Black to be a good, sweet and smooth whisky. It’s also not that complex, and it has a thin, watery mouthfeel, but it has rich flavors and is very easy to drink. It’s also smokier than the Black Label thanks to the deep charred barrels, which is what tamed some of the harsh notes from the grain whisky that we expected to find, this time.

Some of us found the Double Black more complex and flavorful than the Black Label despite its younger age (presumably again due to the deep charred barrels) although which of the two you’d prefer will depend on whether you want something smokier or not (although we’re not talking that smokey when compared to some other whiskies).

You can buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Double Black here.

Johnnie Walker Red Label

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $34.99 approx. for 1L & $39.99 approx. for 1.75L

Johnnie Walker Red Label is a blend of up to 30 single malt and grain whiskies with no age statement. This time there’s no 12 years maturation or deep charred barrels to tame the harsh notes from the grain whisky it contains, so we really expected to find a lot more of them.

On the other hand, Red Label is the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world, so we expected … something miraculous.

ColorAmber, burnished
NoseVanilla, grains, peat, apples, light smoke, alcohol, caramel, earthy, fig, lemon, fruit, char
TasteHoney, vanilla, fig, oak, apples, smoke, peat, grains, dried fruit, spices, toffee, sugar, caramel, pepper
FinishShort: Light smoke, grains, sugar, metallic
Average Score – 60

Johnnie Walker Red Label completely split the group. Some of us thought it wasn’t as bad as many people claim and others thought it was. It clearly contains some very good whisky, it’s not disgusting or unpleasant and there’s still something to enjoy here with a few aromas and flavors.

However, it also clearly contains some very bad whisky and because of its youth, it’s dominated by the grain as expected and it has some off notes, although the light peatiness helps hide some of its rough edges.

So how is this the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world? Well, the brand does say that this whisky is intended for mixing as opposed to drinking neat, and with it containing some good whisky and flavors at a relatively cheap price one can easily understand why it’s so popular as a mixer.

You can buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label here.

2 bottles of Johnnie Walker – Blue Label & Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $243.44 approx. for 750ml & $479.99 approx. for 1.75L

Johnnie Walker Blue Label is made by blending,as the brand says,rare Scotch whiskies with a remarkable depth of flavor’. In other words, it’s meant to be a blend of very good whiskies.

ColorGold
NoseFruit, apple, light smoke, leather, light peat, chocolate, malt, spices, oak, honey, vanilla, caramel, grain, floral, mineral, citrus, sherry
TasteSmoke, fruit, malt, honey, spices, oak, light peat, wood, vanilla, salt, caramel, leather, toffee, black pepper, dark chocolate, apples
FinishMedium – long: Smoke, peat, malt, pepper, honey, fruit, spices
Average Score – 85

And it is. Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a relatively complex, delicious and extremely drinkable whisky. It has a lot of enjoyable and varied flavors that are well blended, and it’s very very smooth. There’s definitely some old whisky in this expression.

The major problem with this whisky is its price. It’s very expensive for what it is, because although it’s a very good whisky, it’s not $250 good. It’s not even $200 or $150 good. You can get a better whisky for a similar price and a decent single malt for half the price.

Nevertheless, it is probably the best of all the Johnny Walker expressions in terms of flavor and it would make a great expensive gift for an extremely special occasion – like when you find it on sale. You can buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label here.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $79.99 approx. for 750ml & $99.99 approx. for 1L

The Gold Label Reserve contains 15 different whiskies but is built around a single malt from Clynelish. I’m not sure why it’s made that way. Perhaps it’s to produce a blended whisky where like many single malts, something does stand out.

ColorAmber, gold
NoseHoney, vanilla, caramel, fruit, toffee, light smoke, light peat, banana, wood spice, nutmeg
TasteHoney, vanilla, caramel, fruit, smoke, oak, spices, chocolate, pepper
FinishMedium: Light smoke, vanilla, honey, spices, ginger, pepper, chocolate
Average Score – 81

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is definitely a good, easy to drink whisky. It’s not overly complex but it does have a lot of different and tasty flavors that work well together. It’s also very smooth. Does anything stand out in particular – well it definitely has some older whisky, but apart from that not really. It still doesn’t have the unique character you get in a single malt.

Some of us thought it was noticeably better than the Black Label but all of us thought it was significantly more expensive. If you want to try another good Johnnie Walker expression that’s blended in a different way to the others, then you can buy a bottle of the Gold Label Reserve here.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Years

  • 43%ABV
  • Price: $66.99 approx. for 750ml & $77.47 approx. for 1L

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Years is 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 the harsh notes found in blends that include grain whisky.

This expression includes single malts from Linkwood, Cragganmore, Talisker, and Caol Ila, all its whiskies have been aged for at least 15 years and it’s bottled at 43%ABV. With so much in its favor going for it, we had high expectations for this whisky.

ColorBurnished, amber
NoseLight smoke, honey, vanilla, oak, light peat, fresh fruit, brown sugar, toffee, floral, lemon, citrus
TasteLight smoke, light peat, honey, pepper, citrus, vanilla, leather, malt, spices
FinishShort – medium: Honey, pepper, light smoke, dry, spices
Average Score – 86

And we were not disappointed. Johnnie Walker Green Label is sweet and very smooth with a lot of well-balanced flavors, making it a tasty, easy to drink whisky.

More importantly (perhaps), being a 15 year old, 43%ABV, good whisky, it’s relatively inexpensive for what it is and probably the best value for money of the entire Johnnie Walker range. You can buy a bottle of the Green Label 15 Years here.

Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $94.99 approx. for 750ml & $109.99 approx. for 1L

This Johnnie Walker expression is a blend of malt and grain whiskies that have been aged for at least 18 years.

ColorDark gold, dark amber
NoseHoney, vanilla, light smoke, fruit, caramel, oak, toffee, floral, grass, spices, cereal
TasteCaramel, vanilla, raisins, dark chocolate, orange, honey, nuts, pepper, spices, toffee
FinishMedium – long: Light smoke, spices, floral, chocolate vanilla, caramel, toasted cereal, honey, fruit, oak spice
Average Score – 84

This is a great whisky.  It’s sweet and smooth with a lot of well-balanced flavors that make it tasty and very easy to drink. Again, nothing stands out, and it would have been better at 43%ABV but it’s an excellent 18 year old blend for a relatively cheap price.

You can buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years here.

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Josh Mitchell

I'm Josh Mitchell. I love whiskey and am working on increasing my whiskey tasting abilities and my collection.

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