Sunday, January 29, 2012

Whisky review: Johnnie Walker Double Black

Most everyone has at least heard of the Johnnie Walker brand of blended Scotch whisky. It's the number-one selling whisky in the world, with distribution in about 200 countries and six bottles selling every second. Johnnie Walker's owner, Diageo, is the largest spirits company in the world and owns 28 malt whisky distilleries and 2 grain whisky distilleries - about one third of all the distilleries in Scotland. So this brand is a goliath.

The part most people don't know is the "order" of the regularly-available Johnnie Walker whiskies - that is, the pricing hierarchy. So here it is, with typical prices for a 750 mL bottle:

  • Johnnie Walker Red Label - $17-20
  • Johnnie Walker Black Label - $25-30
  • Johnnie Walker Green Label - $45-55
  • Johnnie Walker Swing - $50-60
  • Johnnie Walker Gold Label - $70-80
  • Johnnie Walker Blue Label - $160-200
  • Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V Edition - $500-550
  • The John Walker - $3000 (yes, you read that right!)

The bottling being reviewed here, the Johnnie Walker Double Black, is a limited-edition bottling. It's meant to be a cousin of the Johnnie Walker Black Label but with a smokier zing, coming from a higher concentration of peated whisky in the blend as well as the use of deep-charred barrels for the maturation. Double Black was initially only available at airports' duty-free shops, but has recently been released to normal retail outlets. As I'm a fan of the Johnnie Walker line, I had to pick up a bottle of Double Black when I heard it had arrived.

Johnnie Walker Double Black, 40% ABV
Blended Scotch whisky

Nose: Tar with a honey- or malt-like sweetness. Even somewhat floral.

Palate: Reminds me a bit of a Bowmore or Highland Park at first - lightly peaty with a good dose of sweetness. Then the peatiness gets darker and more reminiscent of Lagavulin (a Diageo distillery), and the peat eventually envelops the taste buds.

Finish: Soft smokiness.

Rating (of 100): 89. Decent development in the mouth and I like the mixture of sweetness and peatiness. The finish is a bit weak - maybe it would improve at a higher alcohol content?

It's definitely a solid dram and a nice way to enjoy some peat without being bowled over.

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