Booze Review

Whisky Review – Johnnie Walker Red Label


In case you haven’t noticed, this is the second whisk(e)y review that features a miniature bottle in the photo. Basically, I ran out of new whiskies to review (don’t be alarmed. I still have plenty left to drink), so while in the middle of a beer run two weeks ago, I thought, “Why not pick up some single serving bottles of whiskey?”. I figured that this would be a great way to go back and try some whiskies that I haven’t had in a long time, or to try something that is completely new to me, without having to buy a whole bottle; this would be the whisk(e)y equivalent of the mixed six pack, of which I am a huge fan.

Johnnie Walker is one of the most well known blended Scotch whiskies in the world, and they currently sell the following blended whiskies in the US market: Red Label, Black Label, Green Label, Gold Label, Blue Label, and Swing. Here is what Johnnie Walker has to say about their Red Label:

The Walker family used their encyclopedic knowledge of Scotland’s malts to create a blend with universal appeal. The result? Red Label became the world’s favorite whisky, a position it still holds today. Developed for an export market with a taste for long, refreshing drinks, it’s the label that built the Walker empire, and the brand that defined the whisky business.

And now for my tasting notes…

  • Appearance: Clear amber color. Lots of thin, fast moving streaks form on the inside of the glass after giving it a swirl.
  • Aroma: Rum raisin ice cream. Juniper. Very mild cigar smokiness. Adding water brings out some floral notes.
  • Taste: The alcohol is very prominent when you drink it neat. Thin and watery mouthfeel. Lots of black pepper spiciness from start to finish. Medium, peppery finish with some subtle smokiness. The finish tingles your tongue. Adding water tones down the early pepperiness, but doesn’t alter the finish by much. You can really taste the Talisker 10 (one of my all time favorite Single Malts!) influence on this whisky.
  • ABV: 40%

Although the Red Label can be a bit one dimensional when you drink it neat (heavy on the black pepper), it is still quite enjoyable. This is a young, vibrant, and very in your face kind of whisky, and I liked it even more when I diluted it with a good slosh of water. Would I drink it again? Absolutely. Would I ever buy a full sized bottle? I doubt it. Since there are far too many whiskies out there that I still need to try, I probably won’t be coming back to this one again for quite awhile.

7 replies »

  1. Hi G-Lo,

    First of all, thanks for the shout-out to my Talisker 10 review! Now to Johnnie Walker Red: I have to say that I think you’re putting a positive spin on something that isn’t very positive. That pepperiness really dominates for me in a bad way. You are correct that a good slosh of water is absolutely necessary to tone it down. But, I recently purchased a bottle, and I was trying to polish it off so I could get it out of my cabinet and move on to something else. Every night that I had it, I looked forward to it less and less. It got so bad that with about 1/3 of the bottle left, I did the unthinkable: I poured it down the drain. *gasp!* I know, I know, crazy, right? But let me tell you, I felt liberated and glad that I didn’t have to drink it anymore!

    Ryan

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    • Yo Ryan!

      You’re very welcome for the shout out. It’s a well written review of a VERY good whisky!

      As far as the positive spin, while I can understand how you could dislike the Red Label (not a whole lot of subtlety), I truly think that for the money, it’s a respectable blended whisky. For a few extra dollars, you get something that is much more interesting than the bottom of the line Cutty Sark or J&B. Keep in mind that I only bought a $3 sample and not a full bottle, so I don’t have the problem of having a full bottle around. I have a tiny bottle of Johnnie Walker Black label in the review queue. Looking forward to seeing how it compares to the Red Label. Maybe I should get another small Red Label and do a side by side. We’ll see.

      I too had a similar experience with an awful whisky, and I also solved the problem by pouring it down the drain. Interestingly enough, although this whisky comes in a Johnnie Walker shaped bottle, it wasn’t Johnnie Walker.

      Cheers!
      G-LO

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  2. G-LO,

    I think that you will find a side-by-side between Red and Black Label is not necessary. Black Label is on a whole different level than Red Label! Black Label is quite good. There are some taste similarities, but I think it is hard to find them in Red Label behind all the pepperiness. To really taste Red Label I found you have to not swallow it, as that is when the pepperiness explodes.

    I agree Red Label is probably better than J&B, and is more “interesting” than some other very bland entry-level blends. If you want an interesting cheap blend, then I would take Teacher’s Highland Cream over Red Label. Teacher’s is another one that I find needs a bit of water to go down, but it’s got more smokiness than probably any other cheap blend. Again not my favorite but I actually finished my bottle of that one! Teacher’s is available at Total Wine for $18.

    Ryan

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    • I haven’t had the Black Label in a really long time. Been at least 8 or 9 years, and the last time involved a 200ml bottle which I had in one sitting. It was a fun night! Looking forward to having it again.

      Thanks for the Teacher’s recommendation. I’ll keep an eye out for a sample sized bottle.

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