Review of Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky


Johnnie Walker. It is one of the most well-known and recognizable whisky brands. Even if you’re not a whisky drinker, even if whisky isn’t on your radar, the chances are that you’ve heard of Johnnie Walker.


We also know that many brands are named to honor fictional people. So, was there a Johnnie Walker, and if so, who was he?


Johnnie Walker was born in 1805. He was the son of a farmer, who tragically died when Johnnie was only 14. The family could no longer work the farm and sold it that year. In 1820, the proceeds were invested into a grocery store in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. Although only a teenager, Johnnie was the store’s manager. Five years later, he was selling various spirits from his store.


It wasn’t long before Johnnie divested himself of all the spirits except whisky. At that time, blending malt and grain whiskies was illegal, so Johnnie concentrated on blended malts and grains. He made these blends to his customers’ specifications. He soon realized he needed a brand and sold his blended malts as Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky.


Johnnie passed away in 1857, and the brand was passed to his son and grandson. A new law called The Spirits Act of 1860 rescinded the restriction of blending malts and grains, opening up a whole new world for distillers.


In 1893, the Walkers purchased the Cardhu Distillery. The Cardhu brand was retired. What was there was sold as a five-year Old Highland, a nine-year Special Old Highland, and a 12-year Extra Special Old Highland. The first had a white label, the second was red, and the third was black. People would order these whiskies by their respective colors. It wasn’t long before the Walkers rebranded their whiskies to reflect customers' preferences.


That’s the history of the Johnnie Walker brand, and today, I’m sipping on Johnnie Walker Double Black, a blended Scotch whisky.


“Experience the bold and brooding intensity of Johnnie Walker Double Black, the embodiment of rebellion in the world of Whisky. Handpicked from the west coast of Scotland, this blend features naturally smoky whiskies aged in charred barrels to deliver a full-bodied taste that's second to none.” – Johnnie Walker


What’s the difference between Black and Double Black? Both come from a blend of about 40 whiskies from around Scotland. However, Double Black has a more significant component of whiskies from the island distilleries. Both are packaged at 40% ABV (80°).


Black carries a 12-year age statement, whereas Double Black’s youngest component whisky is 3 years old. Double Black is aged in heavily charred barrels, which is supposed to deliver a smokier experience.


Black has a suggested price of $35.00, whereas Double Black’s is about $10.00 more.


I purchased my bottle from a local liquor store. Let’s #DrinkCurious and discover what Double Black is all about.


Appearance: I poured this whisky into my Glencairn glass to sip neat. The darker gold liquid produced a thinner rim and a wavy curtain of tears.


Nose: The first thing I smelled was smoky peat, followed by custard, pears, menthol, vanilla, and orange peel. Drawing the air through my lips enabled me to experience smoked honey.


Palate: Double Black’s mouthfeel was medium weighted and its texture a smidge waxy. The first tastes included vanilla, honey, and molasses. Next, I found orange rind, pecans, and pears. The back offered notes of cinnamon, subtle peat, and clove.


Finish: Some flavors, such as orange rind, honey, and pecans, fell off quickly. The spicier, earthy notes of cinnamon, clove, and peat remained. There was a bit of barrel char and even a kiss of menthol just before the final bow. I’d describe the duration as medium-to-long.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Johnnie Walker Double Black is an unusual blend. Certain distilleries within Diageo’s portfolio are unmistakable. I could pick out the Talisker influence without much effort. The sweet fruitiness was reminiscent of Glenkinchie. The mouthfeel was classic Clynelish. The denser peat component is from Caol Ila.


Despite my continued reference to peat, I must stress that while this whisky is smoky, I found it mild compared to some of the Islay powerhouses.


Blending is an art form. When a distiller doesn’t dilute familiar characteristics of component whiskies, that’s mastering the art. Master Blender Emma Walker falls into that category. At $45.00, Johnnie Walker Double Black is a hell of a tasty whisky. It deserves my Bottle rating, and I believe you’ll agree. Cheers!   


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.