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Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old

An Inoffensive Peat Whisky

4 1785

mReview by @mhock66

31st Jul 2018

0

  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    85

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

A bottle was recently given to me, and I decided to try it neat.

The initial scent is oak, honey and some smoke.

The palate is sweet, with immediate honey, licorice and barley. A bit of butterscotch and peat round it out. It is sweet without being overly so.

A decent medium lingering aftertaste leaves some smoke in the mouth.

Overall, this is a solid everyday whisky (albeit at a steep price), and a good beginning one for those adjusting to peat.

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17 comments

@Hewie
Hewie commented

It's ok to drink when you don't want to think about what you're drinking. 85 points is very generous in my book though.

14 days ago 0

mhock66 commented

@Hewie agreed that it’s not terribly complex and it’s just a nice drink. I thought 85 was reasonable because it’s good quality and has more flavor than something like Dewar’s white label.

14 days ago 1Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

Thanks for the review. I think it’s hip to bash JW so people online (especially in Facebook groups) carry on about how terrible JW is, but I enjoy the Black Label. It’s fairly consistent, and like you said, contains nothing offensive or polarizing. It’s also great with sparkling water/club soda in a long drink, fwiw.

14 days ago 1Who liked this?

RikS commented

@OdysseusUnbound So, you're saying that's one "we (unfairly) love to hate" (I'm plugging for my latest discussion thread as you can see)

14 days ago 2Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@RikS Absolutely. JW Blue is in the same category. Now to be fair, I tried one glass of JW Blue about 10 years ago. I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what it tasted like.

14 days ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound, that is because the Johnnie Walker Blue Label you sampled was so smooth that it transcended the sense of taste.

14 days ago 4Who liked this?

RikS commented

@OdysseusUnbound JW blue... have never tried it, but I do admit that I'd be reluctant to fork out that much money for a JW. So yes, even without having tried, I suppose I have some prejudice against paying £120+ for a blend with Royal Lochnagar heart that markets itself as "going down easily and smoothly". Hell, for that money I don't want easy and smooth. I want something mindblowing that I won't be able to forget for 3 months.

14 days ago 4Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@RikS You can’t forget something that smooth. Seriously though, I wouldn’t spend $300 CAD on any whisky. There are far too many sub-$200 whiskies I haven’t tried yet. Also, I rather enjoy being married, and remaining married & spending $300 on a bottle of whisky are mutually exclusive propositions.

14 days ago 4Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

I tried Blue once. My best impression (not the best circumstances or glass) was that it was not much different in taste from Black.

not all JW Blues are alike. My B-I-L has 2, one bottled in the 70s or 80s which he got from our father in law in the same transaction as I got a Swing of similar age (I encouraged him to take the Blue) and one that he got at duty Free (a 200 cc bottle). one of them is 40% and one is 43%. One day we may open them and compare.

14 days ago 1Who liked this?

@archivist
archivist commented

Fair description of JW Black, indeed it's inoffensive but it doesn't have much character to me, and it's just a simple, drinkable whisky. It's not a whisky where I'll sit in the backyard with a glass and ruminate over my life while watching the sunset kind of moment. wink As I wrote in another discussion, due to this summer cold, I've been using the JW Black to make hot toddies with, and it's quite soothing - great to make a cocktail or hot toddy with, but I never really liked it on its own as there's so much whisky out there that's better, way better to have neat.

14 days ago 2Who liked this?

mhock66 commented

@archivist good description. It was a nice one to have at dinner with friends, when I just wanted a good drink and not have to think about it. And for that reason alone I gave it an 85. In many ways, Dewar’s White Label accomplishes the same thing. For a “contemplative” whisky, I’ll go with Ardbeg, Laphroaig, or something that I can’t get at the corner convenience store. I do like JW Black, but not at the $49 price tag I see in most places.

14 days ago 3Who liked this?

@archivist
archivist commented

@mhock66 great choices on "contemplative" whiskies, and if you're ever looking for a smooth, unpeated, American whiskey for such contemplation, I suggest Hotaling's Old Potrero Rye and for a real treat, the Old Potrero18th century style.

14 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Frost
Frost commented

Too right JW Black cops a lot of criticism. It's one of my favourite easy to find blends to keep in my rotation. It does what many blends can't do right - balance the peat.

13 days ago 2Who liked this?

@nooch
nooch commented

@OdysseusUnbound the $300 mark can be crossed and you can still be married - I’ve crossed it once! It takes planning. It takes budgeting. I have “my own money” after 99.5% goes into the family pot. How I spend it is on me. That said - and to get mildly back on topic - JW Blue is overpriced. It is tasty, but, as with just about every bottle of whisky ever, it is overly expensive. The markup just seems greater than most. In part your options are limited by where we live. Ontario makes it hard to stretch your legs with some bottles at $150. I would love to have access to SMWS bottlings for example. I’ve spent way too much on whisky the last year anyway. It’s led me to rambling.

13 days ago 2Who liked this?

RikS commented

So would it be fair to say regarding JW that...

Red: generally considered horrid even though I believe I once saw @Victor take some generous mercy on it.

Black: ok, at least for mixing and it is a rather good price...

Green: actually not bad at all. Single malt blend with a whiff of smoke so if available on sales, go for it.

Blue: not bad at all, just totally off parity in terms of cost / experience.

Gold / platinum / 18: huh? Ah yes those ones... Yeah, no one is really interested...

13 days ago 3Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@RikS, sometimes Connosr seems like a meeting room for the Blended Scotch Anonymous 12 step program. Really there is no crime nor shame in discussing blended Scotch. It is, after all, often very reasonably priced, so if you find something you like for 14 GBP you are doing well.

I think that you summed up Johnnie Walker reactions rather well. To be clear, I have never given a general positive endorsement for Johnnie Walker Red Label, only in fairness mentioned that I have tasted from certain batches which I did like. Those batches were in the minority, and the one and only bottle I ever bought of it, many years ago, was maybe the most wretched whisky I have ever consumed,...yes, @Nozinan, worse and more painful than Lambertus. I cannot imagine ever again taking the risk of buying a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label and hoping for the fluke good batch.

As for Johnnie Walker Black Label, the current version, while good, is somewhat of a pale imitation of what it once was. When my total peat-head friend @Nock, devotee of the most intense available Ardbegs and Laphroaigs, once tasted 30+ whiskies from my sister's collection, what impressed him most was the Johnnie Walker Black Label from, probably, the period from 1975-1983. "Haunted" was the word he used to describe his own internal reaction to it. In those days 43.4% ABV JW Black had astoundingly beautiful sherry flavours in it to go with the current peat-centric theme. Those old bottles from that era of 12 yo JW Black were typically distilled in the late 1960s, generally considered a Golden Age for quality in Scottish malt whiskies.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a smooth and mild blend which would be a great buy at 1/4 of its current price.

I also liked the old 18 yo Johnnie Walker Centenary Gold Label, but that one is now long gone. No one seems to like the more expensive 18 yo Platinum which replaced it quite as much.

Johnnie Walker is now also doing some interesting cask experiments, such as using rye whiskey barrels for finishing. Those experiments are all somewhat interesting, but so far I cannot say that I have felt compelled to own bottles of any of the ones I have tasted.

13 days ago 4Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@nooch I could do anything. I joked about buying a $400 bottle of Talisker 25 the other day, and my wife replied, without missing a beat, “sure, go ahead, but be ready to buy me a tent trailer within the next year if you do that.” Given that I still get a great deal of enjoyment out of a $85 bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask or a $56 bottle of Bowmore 12 (I’m sure I’m the only person on Connosr who likes, not loves, that bottle), or even a $30 bottle of Alberta Premium Dark Horse, I’m not in a hurry to spend hundreds more on a bottle of whisky.

13 days ago 0

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