Typology: Blended Scotch Whisky
Ageing barrels: Ex-Bourbon
Added coloring: Yes
Average price: € 14,00
Official website: www.johnniewalker.com/en/
The story of John Johnnie Walker is well known to most (or at least easily found on Wikipedia), so there’s little point in covering it here.
It’s more interesting (perhaps) to understand its success: there’s no doubt that it’s one of the brands (if not THE brand) that everyone thinks of when whisky is mentioned, and it’s one of the best-selling brands in the world (as Scotch it holds the record, as whisky in general it doesn’t).
Much of the credit for its popularity undoubtedly lies in the commercial strength of the brand, which since 1997 has been in the hands of the giant Diageo, which has been able to build its reputation over the years, but already the original owners showed considerable skill in creating a successful marketing campaign, with the use of the Striding Man since 1908.
It’s only in relatively recent times that production has been diversified as we know it today, with a flourish of different coloured labels filling the shelves of wine shops, whisky stores and (above all) supermarkets. Diageo’s extensive portfolio of distilleries, from cannon fodder to the more emblazoned such as Talisker or Lagavulin, has allowed Johnnie Walker’s master distillers to create blends to suit all budgets and tastes, from the basic Red Label to the sought-after Blue and Green Labels.
Even if the enthusiast may turn up his nose at such uncomplicated products, their existence is fundamental not only to maintain the diffusion of whisky, both commercially and culturally (it’s easier to approach the distillate with an affordable bottle in terms of price and taste than with an Octomore), but also to keep many distilleries afloat, remaining open above all because of the contribution they make to these blends.
But let’s come to this Red Label, which with its golden yellow is the eponym of the whisky, the result of mixing at least 35 different distillates and a solid supply of caramel colouring.
On the nose, there’s an immediate alcoholic scent, intended precisely as a disinfectant (definitely not the medicine of Laphroaig), accompanied by glue (!) and a bitter undertone. If you insist with no small amount of courage, you perceive a sweet creaminess in the background. Not very inviting, but then again it’s designed for cocktails, or to be submerged in ice if drunk alone…
On the palate, the alcohol arrives immediately (and it’s 40 degrees!), which quickly vanishes to leave room for cardboard (I swear!) and a very clear bitter profile, almost formaldehyde. It seems a chemical product, like a solvent: not so strong, obviously, but those are the sensations. The taste is very short-lived, unfortunately you have to drink several sips to be able to focus it well… but there’s a limit to how much I can sacrifice, so trust what I wrote above.
The finish is dry, bitter, sticky and fortunately short.
It isn’t born to be drunk on its own, and you can feel it, perhaps it makes sense when mixed, but as a product in itself it remains the lowest point conceivable: you don’t expect complexity from such a cheap product, but at least a physiological minimum of drinkability, yes. In this sense, Double Black is many steps above.
Other bottlings in the blog:
Johnnie Walker XR 21yo
The Whiskey Wash