This is the first in a three part series on Johnnie Walker and their smoky offerings in the range. The first part will look at the Black Label release, followed by the more recent Double Black bottle before finishing with an historical article on the history of the brand and the town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire where the brand derives.

The Brand

The Johnnie Walker brand is the largest whisky brand in the world. For a brand of blended whisky it is quite the institution which today includes a range of products to rival any distilleries range of single malts

. The core colour range of whiskies includes: Red, Black, Double Black, Gold, Green, Platinum and Blue. Each colour gives a different flavour profile from crude mixing alcohol through to peated and then on to well aged complexity in the flagship Blue Label.

The brand also contains two other collections, a series of different finishes known as the explorer collection and lastly a super premium range involves very expensive decanters of very old whisky.


The brand has a huge advertising budget including being an official sponsor of Formula One, airport “Brand Experiences” and pop up shops all over the world. This is a whisky brand which grew from humble roots in a grocers shop in Kilmarnock to a multi national corporate fashion  brand. With that in mind can any of their offerings by worth buying for someone interested in tasting quality spirits neat?

The Dram

The Black Label is now bottled at 40% ABV rather than 43% and is filtered and coloured as you would expect from a blend. The packaging is really nice with a well made simple cardboard box, trademark square bottle and diagonal label. The label is set at 24 degrees on each and every bottle. The reasoning was that with a diagonal label you are maximise the impact and font size of the wording over a horizontal label of equal dimensions.

The Black Label carries an age statement of twelve years and contains a large number of undocumented malt and grain whiskies from a range of Scottish distilleries.

It is available globally in just about every supermarket, corner shop and specialist shop for around the £25 mark.

Tasting Notes

Nose – sweet toffee initially but the aroma’s are all very subtle. some mustiness but mostly sherried notes

Palate – soft and gentle no heat here at all. mild spiciness but for something that is meant to contain Caol Ila peated malt there isn’t any peat flavours here. Dried fruit and caramel dominate

Finish – smoked ashy finish now. The finish does linger nicely though with more of the toffee and caramel notes from the palate. The grain leaves a creamy sweetness on the finish

Final Thoughts

I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. The most noticeable thing for me is the lack of heat or burn from the blend. With other blends I have tried you get this terrible roughness to under matured grain. There is nothing like that here. The blending work done has been excellent to give an old fashioned and casual drink which you can understand the appeal of. The main criticism is the strength which does gives the feeling of watering down the flavours rather than being “smooth”


2 thoughts on “Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old

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