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Johnnie Walker Red Label

Average score from 15 reviews and 77 ratings 66

Johnnie Walker Red Label

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@huineman
Johnnie Walker Red Label

On iceball at home. I know this one is a mixer but let's give it a try on its own.

It pours clean golden to amber with some oily highlights.

Aroma is rather low: before adding water all I get is boozy and ester-y scents, so let's pour some water. Okay, afterwards some new things pop up: raw cereal, pine wood (not needle nor cone) and dry lemon.

In the mouth, even though it appears powerful, it's not as aggressive as expected. Pity the acidity is rather low, making it lose freshness. The finish is medium-lasting and, again, there's a big problem if you didn't dilute: aftertaste is nail polish. When diluted, this might seem transformed into smoke. So dilute it.

Yeah, not my cup of tea (or my dram of whisky, for that reason.) And, definitely a mixer.

@markjedi1

Note: this was bottled in 1966!

Let us not laugh too hard with Johnnie Walker Red Label. After all, it is still the best selling whisky in the world. While this blend has been on the market very, very long, it was not until 1909 that it was given the red label and the famous Striding Man was added to the logo. I sometimes joke that this is the kind of whisky I would use only to clean my windows with, I am now presented with a bottle from 1966, when it was still offered at 43%. Dare we hope for a drinkable blend?

OMG! This nose is good from the very first whiff! Extremely sweet on juicy apricots, loads of sultanas and dried plums. Something like calvados. Or is it Armagnac? A drop of soya sauce and a good dollop of cardamom. Cigar box, brown sugar in a frying pan and a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. All of this wrapped up in a dusty jacked. Boy, they certainly do not make it like this no more! Makes me somewhat nostalgic.

The arrival is rather weak, but that is easily forgiven as if offers, from the start, some rum raisins, blackberries, butterscotch and lots of sherry notes with a spiciness of camphor and cardamom, but also cinnamon and nutmeg. I do not want to sound petulant, but this is truly good.

The finish is not very long, but nicely fruity and spicy.

WTF?!? Really, this was such a nice surprise. Thanks, Jan. If you still have bottles left: count me in!

@tastydram

Titanic beverage group Diageo sells 130 million bottles of Johnnie Walker on a yearly basis. The Red Label blend accounts for the vast majority of these figures. It is one of the cheapest blends and has been produced since 1909. It is probably the most widely available tipple in the world. Red Label contains 35 different malt and grain whiskies.

Tasting notes

Color: Red Label has a classic amber color with a soft golden glow. This does not tell you much about the whisky. It has suffered from the notorious E in whisky (caramel colour has been added) for a consistent colour. Because customers expect so, right?

Nose: Juniper berries and overripe pears are the main aroma's I'm picking up at the nose. After a few sniffs there's some sort of synthetic component that makes an appearance. I can only identify it (for now) as plastic wrap that spent too much time in the oven. At room temperature there's a touch of imitation leather, sweet grains and dry baker's yeast.

Taste: On the palate there's an explosion of soft peat smoke, toasted oak and a mixture of spices. Juniper berries, ginger and pink pepper. And a hint of soft soapiness. But don't worry. It does not get very unpleasant.

Finish: The finish is quite short. An extinguished fire with flakes of oak and pine resin.

Conclusion: Johnny Walker Red label is marketed as a mix drink by Diageo and I suggest you follow that advise. Use it as an appetiser with ice and soda or mix it with Coke (or Pepsi, I'm not in for a "Who's better" debate). Drinking this one neat is far from a life-changing experience. In that case you'd better pick a Black of Double Black label off the shelf.

You cannot call this a bad whisky. Certainly not if you take the price into account. Paying more than € 17 would be considered a bamboozle. But there are plenty more bang for the buck whiskies than this. I put it in the same category as the typical pub white wines. Serve and drink without pretensions.

Over about 40 years I've tasted about 8-10 different Johnnie Walker Red Labels. They have varied astonishingly. There have been a couple which I very much enjoyed, and at least one which was completely undrinkable swill. The bottle line for me has been that you can't trust what's in the bottle until you taste it, and more times than not it is not something that you'd want to buy a bottle of. Once 25 or 30 years ago I bought a 375 bottle of Red Label, not thinking too much about it. That was the most memorably bad bottle of JW Red I have encountered, and probably the worst whisk(e)y of any type which I have encountered. I have not bought any Johnnie Walker Red Label since that time.

At free tastings I am always curious to see what the last JW Red Label tastes like. I had a couple in the last 5 years which I liked, but then last year they reverted to producing a batch which I would not take a second dram of, even for free.

If you are stuck with a bad bottle of JW Red I suppose you could get through it by mixing it with soft drinks or making cocktails out of it...but why anyone who knows better would take the chance of buying a whole bottle of it when there are much more reliable blended whiskies for the same price, is beyond me.

All of that said, when I run into a good batch of Johnnie Walker Red Label--and I have tasted some good batches of it--then I am very happy to drink it. BUT...BEWARE!

^^why take the risk? Unless it's free of course. Well written review, I believe we must thank Diageo, for producing this cheap disgusting liquid for the layman, so we can have our pick of of well aged single malts

@TheConscience

Ah, Johnnie Walker Red, the whipping boy of scotch whisky reviewers the internet over. If you read enough reviews of this whisky you'd think that Diageo were bottling raw sewage and industrial waste decanted from 8th fill casks that once held dead kittens.

However, interspersed among the litany of reviews slagging poor old JW Red are a few islands of rationality that manage to describe this blend for what it is: a simple, competent blend best suited for mixing.

This is certainly my experience with JW Red. It reminded me of Talisker, albeit a very subdued Talisker tamed by soft, diaphanous pillows of grain. Basically, Talisker Lite. Soft, relatively boring nose with some soft smoke; subtle smoke and pepper riding a wave of soft and vaguely sweet grains; a simple vaguely peppery finish.

A simple yet competent blend. There is a reason, aside from marketing, that this blend sells widely. It's not nearly as bad as many reviewers describe it. Not great, but not bad.

Bill Clinton used to slug JW Reds down. A friend of mine, whose father was the librarian to a US President prior to Clinton, dined with Clinton once, and said the man threw back Johnnie Walker Red doubles like water. Dick Cheney had the good sense to add soda water to his. And, of course, Churchill drank his with soda water, as well.

Sounds as if it's even worse now with the new bottling you mention. Good to know. I've been known to order red and soda at bars, but perhaps it's not worth it any longer. Teacher's Highland Cream is the same price in bars that carry Teacher's. That is a much better choice, I think. Yesterday, I was dining in a bar that listed Glenfarclas 105 at $23 per glass. That is over three times the $85 bottle in a liquor store here. I stuck with my dinner and grapefruit juice, and then retired home to a glass of Old Pulteney 21 with a good book.

The new bottling (the one with dead kittens and industrial waste) was a joke, so no need to fret over the quality of JW Red. You can continue to consume your whisky and sodas. I'm sure they will taste just fine.

I actually didn't mind sipping this whisky, and certainly would not turn down a free dram. It would never be a staple in my cabinet or a go-to whisky, but it's not bad. I should try it with soda water next time.

@Bryvsspy

Meh, this is what I give my guests who ask me for a whisky to mix with cola. Also good for killing brain cells and for the young who'll drink anything. Nuff said!

@sadcanadian

There isn't a distinct word I can use to describe this blended whisky other than it's sweet and has a slight taste of wood and a whole lot of alcohol and metal. I can sense a faint fruity taste and a alcohol smell (perhaps super sour green apples or pears sweating caramel and vanilla drizzled with sour apple liqueur and vodka?) I cannot emphasize on the very strong and sharp alcohol smell; reminds me a lot of my local Shell gas station. Finishes off with the alcohol burn, sour-sweet alcoholic aftertaste and weak smokiness, but was rather a quick duration.

So what to do with a whisky like this? On the rocks for your friends who don't know the difference between vodka and rum, or mix it with your favourite soda. It's nearly impossible to call this a scotch. There's nothing special about this whisky.

@GotOak91

I decided to start start my scotch adventure with Johnnie Walker Red last night so I bought two 50ml minis from my semi-local liquor store let me tell you some stores have bad minis selections this one was one of them being due to this town being a college town. Anyways...

Nose: Barley, malted barley, to be specific. Young and raw contains other earthy and grainy notes also.

Body: Light almost watery, it is noted as a blend of at min. 3 years old but its more than likely close to that number.

Taste: Slightly sweet at the front entry maybe a bit of honey, grains: barley, rye, among others. There are some earthy components as well as a little smoke took a little deciphering for that. You can tell this is made with 35 different malts and grains. (If my sourcing is correct) In all honesty Its a jumble of flavors from the different regions trying to get your attention I understand why one would at least buy Black or Double Black.

Finish:A little rough just enough you remind you its whisky. A little short butt warming, there is a bit of a pepper finish though. I have had worse finishes seeing how this is at the bottom of the J.W. lineup I curious to try Black to see if the flavor profile is straightened out.

Overall: In my terms not a bad whisky sure it needs work but this is a primarily mixing scotch not a sipping one. In other words better than some worse than others but that's just my humble opinion.

You seem to have some skills for one just starting your Scotch adventure. I'll look forward to your comments about JW Black. The Red is the bottom rung of the Johnnie Walker ladder, and the general consensus is that the Black is a giant leap of about six rungs upwards. (But aaahhh, wait 'til you get to the Green Label!)

Thank you WhiskyBee I hope Black jumps up the ladder that high and yes Red is very well proven itself to be at the bottom of the J.W. ladder.

@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.

@SquidgyAsh

This week I've been reviewing entry and very low level whiskies. Now I'm doing this for a couple reasons.

First I needed sample bottles for a whisky swap and this seemed the only way to get some. Second to be able to appreciate good whisky, you need to understand whisky that is bad and whisky that is just meh.

Thankfully so far none of the whiskies reviewed this week have been bad, they've all been meh so far.

Now the Johnnie Walkers in the test were the ones I was really looking forward to, the big reason why is that I'd never had them before. My only experience with Johnnie Walker up to now had been Green Label, which was quite yummy!

Now I'd heard bad things about Red Label before so I was pretty curious as to what I was getting into.

So I crack open the sample bottle and I pour it into the glencairn after a quick smell of it in the bottle where all I got was alcohol.

As I nose the glencairn I'm surprised to find the smells of Speyside greeting me. Very interesting!

So I sit down with my wife and I start to nose this whisky, this Johnnie Walker Red and as I do so I immediately get some apples and pear, which causes me to start salivating, but there is also something in here that all I can say is savory.

I swear the bloody thing has meat coming off it!? What the bejesus?!

I hand the glencairn to my wife and she immediately gets "Week old cut grass, apples, and burnt butter"

When I comment that I'm smelling something like meat coming off it and blinks, renoses the glencairn and informs me that she can see that.

WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GETTING READY TO DRINK!?

I then take a sip and I get those apples coming at me with just a hint of cinnamon, not bad, but very watery with the apples mainly making their appearance at the end of the sip.

My wife gets the apples and the cut grass. She doesn't care for it, but doesn't immediately dislike it.

The finish is fairly short, but there is an aftertaste that lasts for maybe 30 seconds with the apples crying out as I try to analyze and find that savory in the flavor.

I can not.

This isn't a bad whisky my friends, just not a very good one. I put it in the meh category. Use it for mixing, but it won't kill you to sip it.

But that's ok, it retails for a meh price. Roughly $30 AUS and able to be purchased in any liquor store.

Tomorrow is the end of this series of reviews, ending with Johnnie Walker Black Label, which I'm looking forward to. Now at the end of tomorrow's review there will be an amusing story that occurred during the course of these reviews.

Pretty spot on. Watery, a bit harsh, no real character - an ideal mixer. Sippable if you're absolutely desperate and have nothing else on hand. I think for me a score of 65+ means I wouldn't turn down a free drink. Below 65, I would have to think about it, so I think we're on the same page here.

Spend an extra $5 and get the Bailie Nicol Jarvie - makes Johnny Red seem WAY overpriced in comparison.

Looking forward to that "amusing" story!

@Slowpuffs Hahaha no apolagies SlowPuffs! I can't see any sort of comment? Not sure why.

@Systemdown I wouldn't say no to a free dram of this, but I sure wouldn't pay for it. If it was a choice of paying for a dram of this and a free glass of water I do believe I'd go with the free glass of water everytime. Having tried it once I do not find myself needing to try it again.

@Eye_lah_Guy

Light amber; delicate vanilla nose; light body; sparkling clean taste of a speyside malt, with clear grains giving way to the slightest oak char; solid balance, and a warm, sweet finish with apricots and pears.

Much superior to my last tasting, but I've learned to appreciate a fine blend with Speyside roots.

@IainVH

Sampled (or should I say endured) in a Glencairn without water(although I had a few good mouthfuls afterwards). The legs were the best part, strong and thick like a Samoan rugby players.

Colour: Mucky brown, Castrol GTX motor oil.

Nose, Metallic, Castrol GTX motor oil.

Taste: Castrol GT…. no, only kidding. Well……it didn’t really taste of anything other than whisky. I realise this is a silly thing to say but it didn’t have any flavours to speak of, as if the makers simply wanted to produce something that was simply whisky flavoured. A very very very slight liquorice taste is the best I can come up with.

Finish: None to speak of and very short (thankfully).

I picked this up on holiday in the local mini mart for 15 euros or about £12 (which is roughly the same as a litre of Castrol GTX) and I feel overcharged. It’s definitely one for mixing with coke, putting in Hot toddys, giving to someone you don’t like’ someone who’s collapsed in the street outside your front door, or perhaps to the Samoan rugby player for rubbing alcohol. Otherwise avoid. I’d rather drink Castrol GTX....no perhaps not....but wait....maybe................no.

Chuckle… About the argument rather than the review, really... Although I quite liked the review. 62 seems quite a precise and high score for something that you think tastes so undesirable though? Methinks maybe you aren't too un-partial to a few slugs of motor oil in the morning!?

Oh dear, Sense of humour transplant alert! If I've offended you I'm sorry...no actually I don't give a toss. I also don't care whether you got anything from my review, it's my oppinion and I'm entitled to it. If I want to express it in a light hearted way then I certainly don't have to ask anyones permission and certainly not yours. You need to lighten up fella! You're taking things far too seriously!

@rwbenjey

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this. I can tell there is either an Island or Islay malt involved in this blend.

The nose is smoky, sweet, and earthy. There is also a fair hint of honey involved.

On the palate, smoke and pepper are prominent, followed by old wood, honey, baked apple, and creme.

The finish is fairly long; fresh and salty. I think I found another Walker that I like alongside the Green Label. This one got my attention.

@Dellnola

Nose: Immediate, cloying malty sort-of sweetness, aluminum cans, maybe some sweat.

Taste: The taste is almost exactly like the nose, except the malty sweetness is not cloying at all and there's maybe a little less metal involved. Quite watery.

Finish: Nope.

Ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating when I say "Nose: Nope." but there's really barely anything there except an indistinct "whisky" flavor.

So why did I review this forgettable whisky that many of us don't even bother with? Because I'm sure that many, many people visit this site looking for a review of it and I noticed there are only two. Although I'm giving it a low score, I'm hesitant to bash it. Maybe it's because I know it's not trying to be anything it's not, or maybe it's because Johnnie Walker has managed to become a super-successful whisky and many people's first (and sometimes only) exposure to Scotch whisky is this.

Anyway, I know that a lot of people find this whisky harsh, but I don't. I just find it incredibly indistinctive and boring, which perhaps makes it the perfect mixer. Although I don't think this is a sipping whisky, I think it has a place in the whisky world.

Whoops, I meant "Finish: Nope". Anything in the works for the ability to edit not just the score but the entire review Connosr?

J

Johnnie Walker makes some good blends. This is the exception. It puzzles me how Black Label is so respectable while just below it on the Johnnie ladder the Red is so terrible. Must be made from the rejects from every bottle above it.

Hey @jaz, step up and defend thyself! This is a social site, and there here are few scoring rules, and after all, this is your review. Oh, and just in case you might have been a bit quick with the mouse, I'll bet that Connosr just might allow you to re-submit your review. You may still feel that this blend deserves a "1" ... but it is customary, and useful to the members, to offer a little explanation.

BTW, what if you run into something even less desirable (like Red Stag, IMHO) ... there would be only negative scores left for it :-)

I have to agree that 1/10 is a bit of a harsh score for what really is a blend to be mixed with other drinks. It's ok on its own, not up to the quality of the Black Label, but decent enough that i wouldnt mind drinking it neat. I tend not to mix whisky with other drinks (coke etc), but this is one i don't mind doing so with, it tends to come into its own when mixed with something else, the flavours come out a bit more in my opinion.

r

I think this is the best quality/price blended I ever taste. Sell with an elegant case for the 100 distillery's anniversary, this rich blended is very good on the rocks or with ice cream; it's very versatile

Also makes a very good mixed drink like an Old Fashion.

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