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Scotch Whiskey: The Difference Between Johnnie Walker Black and Red



Johnnie Walker is one of the world’s most famous names in scotch whisky, and for good reason. From his humble beginning as a grocer in the early 19th century, Johnnie Walker created a business that his son Alexander and grandsons Alexander II and George would later solidify into a thriving global brand. Consistently leading the industry as the world’s most popular whisky, Johnnie Walker blends can be found in virtually any bar and liquor store in countries where alcohol consumption is legal.


Both Red Label and Black Label are blended scotch whiskies, which means at least two different types of component whiskies are blended to create a complex taste. These blends consist of single malt and single grain whiskies produced in several distilleries throughout Scotland. Single malt whiskies contain 100% malted barley, while single grain whiskies use cereal grains, typically wheat, malted barley, and corn. Barrels of these types of whisky would have been distilled separately, then blended to create the final product.


Scotch regulations mandate that whisky must be matured for at least three years in a wooden container. Some Johnnie Walker blends feature age statements on their labels to show the number of years they spent maturing in oak, while others do not. These are referred to as no age statement or NAS whiskies. Storing older whiskies in less-mature barrels and then combining whiskies of various ages allow the blending team to add new depth and complexity to the product, and all Johnnie Walker blends have a signature long and smoky finish.


Johnnie Walker Red Label


Red Label is the “Pioneer Blend” that brought Johnnie Walker global fame and helped establish the brand among whisky lovers around the world. It is considered a NAS whisky, meaning that some components of the blend will have aged for the three-year minimum, but others may be older. It mixes up to 30 malts and grains, combining the light whisky flavors of Eastern Scotland with the peaty flavors found in the West. Red Label’s medium-body blend is honey-gold in color with a nose of fruit, malt, and wildflowers. Its vibrant, spicy palate features vanilla, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, toasted oak, and toffee sweetness with hints of peat and smoke. The finish is medium length and characterized by pepper, honey, and pectin. A 750 mL bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label has a 40% ABV and costs around $27.


Johnnie Walker Black Label


Black Label sets the standard for deluxe blended scotch whiskies with a smooth, beautifully balanced taste and distinctly warming smoke finish. This blend has an age statement of 12 years, meaning every barrel used to house the batches was matured for a minimum of 12 years. Polished amber in color, Black Label begins with a nose of smoke, red berries, tropical dark fruits, toffee, winter spice, and hints of sweet vanilla. Its palate is smooth and creamy, perfectly balancing smoke and peat with citrus flowers, fruit, oak, malt, and toffee, which adds sweetness and a bit of spice. The long finish has flavors of citrus peel, fruity sweetness, vanilla, and

cracked pepper. A 750 mL bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label has a 40% ABV and costs around $40.


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Both Johnnie Walker blends are multi-dimensional and versatile, but each has its own strengths. Red Label is often used in cocktails, while Black Label is generally enjoyed straight or on the rocks, and a little added water can be added to either one to really bring out the sweetness. If you have any questions about Johnnie Walker or would like a recommendation, contact Payless Liquors today to speak with our expert team.