Johnnie Walker Red Label
Safe, predictable, and bland
18th Aug 2012
Best price to buy online:
Tasting Notes by WhiskyBee
Ah, youth. The days when I was but a Saturday-night beer drinker and a holiday Scotch drinker. Blended Scotch. Rocks. Cutty, Dewars, J&B...well brands, what the hell. Scotch was Scotch, and it fulfilled its three-times-a-year function well.
Then I discovered single malts, and it was if the mysteries of the universe had been unlocked! Well, okay, maybe my epiphany wasn’t quite that high on the omniscience scale; let’s just say the malts tasted a lot better than the junk I’d been drinking. And my rite of passage was such that it had been at least four years since I’d sampled a standard “supermarket brand” blended Scotch.
But last weekend, as I was preparing a pot of my world-famous chili, I found myself wanting a wee nip of something as I was cooking. Not having a supply of beer in the house (a situation rectified by dinner time), and not being a time for thoughtful nosing and sipping, I dug into the far recesses of my cupboard for a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label that had been sitting at a ¾ level since 2008. I filled a glass with ice, poured in the JW, and I felt like I was all young and 50 again.
But I couldn’t resist pouring a taste into a Glencairn glass and giving the stuff a “proper” mini-evaluation.
Nose: Chili pepper and hot sauce! Oh, wait, let me step out of the kitchen here…ah, that’s better. Hmm, better than expected, but bland and booze-y. A few fruits and sherry notes with maybe a teeny touch of peat struggling to break through the graininess, but nothing particularly distinctive.
Taste: Z-z-z-z-z-z. It’s not a negative experience by any means, but it’s entirely boring and forgettable. Surprisingly fresh and light, with short blasts of vanilla sweetness and bitter tea that fade away to nothing rather quickly.
In short, it was not the negative, “Brace yourself for some rotgut” experience I was anticipating, based on some of the online reviews I’ve read. But there’s certainly nothing challenging or interesting here. It’s a half-decent beginner’s whisky, made for mixing or pouring over ice, and it does its job in a workmanlike manner.
So back it goes to the cupboard to wait patiently for another four years, I suppose. Or until a guest requests some Scotch on the rocks, because it’s the only whisky in my cabinet that I’ll allow within 20 feet of an ice cube.