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Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old

A simple yet distinctive character.

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@hunggarReview by @hunggar

20th Feb 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

I try to avoid following the crowd with my reviews on this site, but I have to admit that I tend to agree with the general consensus here regarding the JW range. I don't like the red, I love the black and the green, and I think the gold and the blue are good but overpriced. So don't expect anything groundbreaking here.

Here's my take on the black:

Nose: Brine, citrus, cereal, caramel and smoke. Something reminiscent of moss or wet grass makes an appearance. The smokey scent isn't the strong phenol blast that you get with The single malt Islays. Overall the nose is not incredibly balanced but it's still very pleasant.

Palate: Cereal, apples, and caramel. Not the kind of thick, creamy caramel that you get with some of the good single malts (for example Benriach 12 yr Sherry Finish). This caramel is less smooth or savory. Smoke. A very natural peaty flavour. Perhaps it's not the industrial, briney phenol blast that so many peat lovers demand, but to the rest of us, this is certainly a wonderfully smokey dram.

We then move forward into the trademark JW finish. It starts with some mild floral flavours, then moves into a dry, salty, smokey mildly harsh final kick before fading into oblivion.

Sidenote: Am I the only one who has noticed the aforementioned "JW finish." To me, the finish is really quite distinctive to the JW range, yet I have read very few reviews that have taken note of it. It's the reason why I can always identify anything JW (regardless of the bottle's colour) in blind tastings. Anyway...

This is a strongly flavoured whisky without being very complex. To put it another way, it's a simple whisky but it's got real character. And it's good. It's distinctive. It doesn't taste like a cheap blend where random scraps from random distilleries were haphazardly tossed together (call me a malt snob, but I have tried more than a couple blends that fit that description). No, this was a calculated blend.

For me, it's a very enjoyable, modest, and unpretentious dram. It doesn't pretend to be what it isn't. The reality is that JW Black is a great mixer (nothing works better with Coke IMHO), but it's also an unassuming and pleasant whisky that can be casually enjoyed by itself. It doesn't try to copy or taste like single malts. It's a blend with it's own character. It's a uniquely simple and unapologetic personality that intentionally sets itself apart from others. Sure, it's not as balanced or sophisticated as it's elders, but it works, and it works well.

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