I do like a cheap blended Scotch on Malt. Blends are the backbone of the whisky industry, and many people’s first interaction with aqua vitae. So it’s time to review another one.
I’ve looked at other Johnnie Walker whiskies and found them – from Black Label to Blue Label – to have been very enjoyable indeed. Even the great Charles MacLean declared his love of blends and Black Label in this interview from a little while ago.
Johnnie Walker Red Label is huge. The blend was released as Red Label first in 1909, although before that it was known as Walker’s Special Old Highland Red Label. This was a time where whiskies were transitioning from being promoted as family merchant names into more marketable brand names. Other random facts: Winston Churchill use to drink a bit every day, and it was featured in Superman 3, where Superman drinks a glass of Red Label after being exposed to synthetic kryptonite.
Since then Johnnie Walker Red Label has become the best-selling Scotch Whisky in the world. It is composed of “35 of the finest aged single malts and grain whiskies”, and many sources suggest it is designed for mixing, which probably isn’t a good sign when it comes to drinking for appreciation.
Colour: deep gold, but quite bright.
On the nose: Simple stuff. Green apples. Sour cream. Honey. Candle wax – burnt candle, in fact. An undertone of ash, like an empty ash tray.
In the mouth: creamy, with plenty of young grain giving it a velvety texture. Much of the nose in fact. Peppery. Honey again. Not much else going on. The smoke isn’t a lovely sweet peated note, again more of that strange harsh ashy note. Toffee. Not at all complex.
It’s pretty rough and ready. In fact, well… it’s not very good. If this is people’s first experience of Scotch whisky, you’d forgive them for thinking it’s a bit rubbish. I’d recommend you nudge people up towards Black Label, Gold Label or even Green Label. Those are all terrific blends. In fact, Johnnie Walker Black Label is one of the best-value whiskies on the planet.
But the Red Label is unpleasant stuff. I dare say that Churchill was drinking a better recipe than this.