Johnnie Walker is the most widely distributed blended Scotch whisky brand in the world, but which of their whiskies are the best and for which occasions. That’s what I wanted to know and after some (very enjoyable) research I found the answers.
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Best For Flavor: Johnnie Walker Blue Label
The Blue Label is the best Johnnie Walker whisky when it comes to flavor. That’s because of the whiskies included in the blend (Johnnie Walker is not a distillery that makes its own whisky but a brand that blends different types of whiskies together to make their own expressions).
To better explain what I mean, here are the seven main Johnnie Walker whiskies, the types of whiskies in their blend and what they’re like in terms of flavor.
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years
This is a blend of up to 40 single malt and grain whiskies. Grain whiskies often have harsh notes but since all those used for the Black Label are aged for at least 12 years, they will have been tamed by the lengthy maturation process. That’s why although it’s not a complex whisky, the Black Label is sweet, malty and smooth, and its flavors (including a relatively light amount of peat) are nice and well-balanced.
Johnnie Walker Double Black
This is also a blend of malt and grain whiskies but having no age statement means it’s not aged for anywhere near as long as the Black Label. However, there are still no harsh notes from the grain whiskies in the blend because the Double Black is matured in deep charred barrels which filters out more of the unwanted flavors.
It also helps the whisky pick up more flavors, which is why despite being younger, the Double Black is almost as good as the Black Label. It also makes the Double Black smokier.
Johnnie Walker Red Label
This a blend of up to 30 single malt and grain whiskies with no age statement. Without 12 years of maturation or deep charred barrels there’s nothing to tame the harsh notes from the grain whiskies. That’s why although the Red Label contains some very good whisky, it also contains some very bad whisky too. However, as this whisky is intended for mixing as opposed to drinking neat, any off notes will be hidden in the larger drink.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
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 a blend of very good whiskies. That’s why this is a relatively complex, delicious and extremely drinkable whisky. It has a lot of enjoyable and varied flavors that are well-balanced, and it’s very, very smooth. I think that there’s some old whisky in this expression.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
The Gold Label Reserve contains 15 different whiskies but is built around a single malt from Clynelish – which might be the older whisky that this blend seems to have. That’s why although not that complex in itself, it is noticeably better than the Black Label. It has a lot of different and tasty flavors that work well together, and it’s very smooth.
Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Years
The Green Label 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 malts – which is the best way to avoid the problem of harsh notes from the grain whiskies ruining your blend. That’s why the Green Label is sweet, tasty and very smooth with a lot of well-balanced flavors.
Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years
This expression is a blend of malt and grain whiskies, but it’s been aged for at least 18 years. That’s why it’s sweet and smooth with a lot of tasty, well-balanced flavors that make it very easy to drink.
As you can see, the better the whiskies in the blend the more flavorful it will be. Since the Blue Label contains the best whiskies, it’s therefore the most flavorful Johnnie Walker whisky. The Green Label is also very flavorful – being a blended malt whisky, but it has to take second place to the Blue Label which is the best Johnnie Walker whisky when it comes to flavor.
For more information on these whiskies, see my in-depth review of them here.
Best For Price: Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Years
The Green Label 15 Years is the best Johnnie Walker whisky when it comes to price. To help me explain why that is, here’s a list of the seven main Johnnie Walker whiskies and their approximate prices for a 750ml bottle:
|Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years||$40|
|Johnnie Walker Double Black||$48|
|Johnnie Walker Red Label||$22|
|Johnnie Walker Blue Label||$244|
|Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve||$80|
|Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Years||$67|
|Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years||$95|
Obviously it would have been better if the best Johnnie Walker whisky for flavor would also have been the best Johnnie Walker whisky for price, however, as you can see from the table above, that’s far from being the case. The Blue Label is very expensive for what it is. You can get a better whisky for a similar price and a decent single malt for half the price.
The Gold Label Reserve is also relatively expensive for what it is, but the 18 Years is relatively cheap for what it is. The Black Label, Double Black and Red Label are pretty good value for money.
However, the standout whisky when it comes to price is the Green Label. It’s the best value for money of the entire Johnnie Walker range considering that it’s a blended malt that’s 15 years old and bottled at 43%ABV. Which is why I think that the Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Years is the best Johnnie Walker whisky when it comes to price.
Best For Mixed Drinks: Johnnie Walker Red Label
The Red Label is the best Johnnie Walker whisky for cocktails and mixed drinks.
That’s because it does contain some very good whisky (any off notes will be hidden by the other ingredients in the drink) and it’s very cheap. Don’t just take my word for it – take the fact that Red Label is very popular as a mixer. It’s the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world.
So, if you want a cheap Johnnie Walker for your cocktail that also has some good whisky in it, then the Johnnie Walker Red Label will be the best Johnnie Walker whisky for you.
Best For Smoke Flavors: Johnnie Walker Double Black
The Double Black is the best Johnnie Walker whisky for smoke flavors.
That’s because the malt and grains whiskies in the blend are selected from whiskies that were matured in deep charred (hence the name) barrels.
Charring the barrels whiskies are aged in, breaks down parts of the oak creating flavor compounds for the whiskies to pick up. It also allows easier and deeper penetration by the spirit into the wood and creates a charcoal layer that filters out unwanted flavors. The more a barrel is charred the more this happens. Which is why the Double Black has pretty good flavors for a young whisky.
It’s also why it has a smokier flavor than other Johnnie Walker expressions – a char smoke flavor from the extra charring, not a peat smoke flavor which comes from malted barley that’s been dried in a kiln fueled by peat.
If you prefer a smokier whisky, then the Johnnie Walker Double Black will be the best Johnnie Walker whisky for you.