Spirits & Liqueurs Scotch

Johnnie Walker Double Black Scotch Review

Johnnie Walker Double Black whisky takes a classic and turns it up to 11.

Johnnie Walker Double Black
Image:

Liquor.com / Laura Sant

Johnnie Walker Double Black scotch is a sweet and smoky whisky marked by intense flavors of sweet apple, honey, cinnamon and clove.

Fast Facts

Classification: Blended Scotch whisky

Company: Diageo

Distillery: Various, Scotland

Cask type: Ex-bourbon and sherry casks

Still type: Various

Released: 2011

Proof: 80

Aged: No age statement

MSRP: $42 

Awards won: Category Winner, World Whiskies Awards, 2020 (Blended category); Gold, Scotch Whisky Masters, 2018 (Blended—No Age Statement category); Gold, World Whiskies Awards, 2018


Pros:

  • A blended whisky for a generation that grew up on single malts: big, smoky and flavorful
  • A versatile blend that makes a fine sipper and also a distinctive addition to cocktails calling for scotch 

Cons:

  • Fans of blended whiskies may find Double Black too intense for their liking, while single malt aficionados may find it not quite challenging enough. 

Tasting Notes

Color: Unlike Johnnie Walker’s classic Black Label, which comes in a clear bottle, Double Black is housed in a translucent black bottle, most likely to better differentiate it on store and bar shelves. In the glass, it’s the same golden caramel color as Black Label, perhaps just a touch lighter.

Nose: Light smoke predominates, more so than with Black Label, but just beneath the surface are powerful sweet notes of toffee, honey, ripe red apple, peach and melon.

Palate: As with the nose, the smokiness of Double Black is more intense (double the intensity, perhaps?) of Black Label, complemented by flavors of sweet apple and pear dipped in honey. The smoke, along with hints of spices like cinnamon and clove, lingers on the tongue the longest.

Finish: Both sweetness and smoke linger for quite a while, along with a touch of menthol; inhale deeply post-sip, and it’s a little reminiscent of a clove cigarette.

Our Review

Johnnie Walker is a rare beast, a wildly popular brand that’s found virtually everywhere Scotch whisky is sold, but it’s also widely respected, even revered, by whisky snobs who generally gravitate to single malts over blends. Johnnie Walker Double Black is a smokier, more Islay-centric variation on the brand’s classic Black Label expression. It was originally a travel retail exclusive before making its way to general release in 2011. 

Johnnie Walker’s Black Label is one of the most beautifully balanced blended scotches, with a gentle sweetness tempered by light smoke. Double Black aims to crank up the dry smoky notes through an increase of peated malts in the blend, as well as with the use of heavily charred ex-sherry casks. The result is not just cranked-up smoke but cranked-up everything: a blended whisky for single malt lovers.

Or is it? While it’s surprisingly high-octane for a blend, it still lacks a certain intensity and regional specificity that defines the best single malts. And it may be a little too out-there for lovers of classic, lighter blends, including Black Label. That said, it holds together surprisingly well considering how easily it could have gone off the rails. It’s big and bold and goes great in cocktails; try it in a Whisk(e)y Sour or Rob Roy for starters. And sipping it neat or with an ice cube is also quite the treat.

While Johnnie Walker hasn’t disclosed which single malts are included in the Double Black blend, based on the flavor (and the brand’s ownership by Diageo), it’s a good bet that substantial amounts of smokier whiskies such as Caol Ila and Talisker are in the mix.

Interesting Facts

While Johnnie Walker Black Label is aged at least 12 years, and has the label to prove it, Double Black lacks an age statement.

The bottom line: Not for the faint of heart, Double Black is an intense blend designed for a generation of whisky fans raised on big, bold single malts. This isn’t your grandparents’ blended whisky, and in this case, that’s a good thing.