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Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old

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@RianCReview by @RianC

19th Jul 2019


Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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I've been looking forward to reviewing a bottle of this for a long time. Why, you may ask? Well, it was this whisky that I hold accountable for me falling head over heels for all things Scotch (and whisk - e - y). In days gone by, where often the mere smell of most whisky could simulate a kind of gag reflex (ahem!), JWB was always a reliable and enjoyable 'end of the night' go to. Usually poured over a few ice cubes I distinctly remember one evening six or so years ago where, instead of simply tasting 'whisky', I could actually taste some of its nuances - toffee, something like liquorice (peat) and vanilla. Soon went the ice and then I tried Ardbeg . . .

I used to always have a bottle of this on the go and it was a Duty Free staple, along with 200 cigarettes. Thankfully, the latter habit has gone up in smoke but it's been a few years since my last bottle of this. So, how is it faring?

Bottle's been open a few months, half full. Review is neat but left twenty mins or so.

Nose - Very nice and fresh, classic, even. Peppery and slightly medicinal peat, buttery toffee, a little gingery tickle and, yes, there's a little hint of vanilla custard; but the grain notes, while more prominent than I recall, don't swamp things too much.

Taste - Silky, if light, mouthfeel. Black pepper again, liquorice and tangy peat with some maritime notes muddled in there. There is some toffee there as well but I do have to search for it. The grain notes show more towards the finish as vanilla and a little 'rawness'.

Finish - Reasonable length, for a blend, with more pepper, peat tang and some old tea bag at the death.

Perhaps not my greatest bottle but I'm thinking that's probably as much to do with my palate changing as anything in the blend. Although I do think this bottle leans more to the Talisker than I remember. So more peppery and coastal than I recall. Well, no bad thing is it? I hear you ask. Honestly, I feel the balance in this bottle is a little off and I'm missing that fudgy, toffee note that used to be very well integrated.

Still, for around £20 (if you shop around) this is still one of the best value blends out there and while I may hang fire on another purchase I'll still never turn a dram down. What I'd give to try a bottle of this from the 80's or even earlier . . .

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cricklewood commented

@RianC nice review, JWB is a classic for a reason and for many people it is what comes to mind when they think about Scotch, much like you I have drank my share of this stuff.

I am not sure the changes you register is your evolving palate, while the general profile stays within the parameters, I have noticed a lot of batch variation and sometimes it leans heavy on the smoky/peppery end of the spectrum, other times it`s got tons of fudge, vanilla, caramel, always with that grain presence.

4 years ago 3Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

As much as the marketing team at Diageo would like us to believe in consistency, something as volatile as whisky, especially a blended whisky, is bound to have significant batch variations. I’ve had excellent bottles of this and mediocre ones. But even the mediocre ones are pleasant enough. Thanks for your review.

4 years ago 2Who liked this?

casualtorture commented

End of life tea bag is a perfect description for the finish here and one I wouldn't have pinned down on my own. I agree this is good for what it is. Not one I have purchased in a while but one I wouldn't mind buying again.

4 years ago 2Who liked this?

RianC commented

@cricklewood - Interesting, thanks. This is definitely the most heavily peated bottle I've come across but I don't doubt your experiences. I noticed that the recent Green Label editions were more peated than the first re-releases. I'm wondering if this is a Diageo ploy to cater to the craze for peat? Also, I'd guess it's easier to mask less than stellar spirit with more peated ones?

@OdysseusUnbound - Thanks, and I totally agree. I umm'd and ahh'd about the mark as I'd usually peg this in the mid to upper 80s (that's a blend mark, as Ralfy would say!) but feel that 83 is about right. That's still decent though and I'd happily chug my way through this bottle. Once your a pour in any flaws are forgotten smile

@casualtorture - It's hard to knock this blend really and I have a big soft spot for it. I might be being a bit nit-picky here but I still think Diageo deserve some credit for continuing to release a decent age-stated blend at (often/usually) a fair price.

4 years ago 2Who liked this?

RikS commented

Kind of makes me think I wish I could return and swap that Queen Margot 8 now.... :)

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

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