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Johnnie Walker Double Black

Review: Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky   85.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra
January 11, 2021

Johnnie Walker is one of the most iconic whisky brands in the world. With its unique square bottle, and the labels tilted off-center, the company has created a strong brand image and its spirit is considered by many to be the quintessential Scottish whisky.

According to the Johnnie Walker website:

Johnnie Walker Double Black was created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge as a darker, smokier interpretation of the world famous Johnnie Walker Black Label. Johnnie Walker Double Black is matured in heavily charred casks and uses a greater proportion of characterful West Coast and Island whiskies to elevate iconic flavours to a new level of intensity.

Unlike Johnnie Walker Black Label which carries a 12 year age statement, Johnnie Walker Double Black is not an age stated brand. Although the Johnnie Walker website seems to imply that the Double Black is an elevated version of Johnnie Walker Black Label, I note that the Double Black has a slightly lower retail price in my market, and I suspect that the average age of the blend is somewhat lower than its iconic brother.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

Johnnie Walker Double Black, arrives in the typical square bottle shape, designed in 1920 by Alexander Walker. The shape is distinctive to the brand, and was designed to be ergonomic, allowing more bottles to be packed into a square area with less chance of breakage. A key aspect the bottle presentation is the slanted label which is tilted about 24 degrees off-center. The angled label was designed to catch the attention of shoppers when the bottle sat on the shelf next to the other whisky bottles.

As well, every bottle of Johnnie Walker Scotch features the Striding Man logo which artist/cartoonist, Tom Browne created on the back of a menu card while at lunch with the Walker Brothers in 1908. The logo portrays a man walking forward, which has come to symbolize forward thinking and the pursuit for excellence for the brand. Diageo, the owners of the Johnnie Walker Brand have also created “The Striding Man Society” which is a members club for Johnnie Walker drinkers.

Johnny Walker Double Black is unique in that it’s bottle is dark, and it is sold in a ‘black oak’ cardboard display box which is meant to highlight the heavily charred casks and the West Coast Island Whiskies which give the whisky its dark character.

In The Glass 8.5/10

Colour: Amber/copper (just a hair darker than the Johnny Walker Black)

Legs: Slender Legs which disappear before they reach the bottom of the glass

Nose: Herbal peat combined with light oak spice. Butterscotch and light notes of menthol as well as tar and perhaps hints of iodine and salt. Perhaps there is a bit of swampiness welling up which reminds me of a grassy wetland. Fine black pepper, and citrus zest give an indication of some alcohol heat and fine oak spiciness.

In the Mouth 51/60

The initial impression in my mouth is of a light caramel sweetness coupled with a ribbon of soft smoke and herbal peat. The peat flavour is more gentle than I was anticipating, which allows me to notice evidence of a sherry influence with dried fruit (raisins and prunes) and light cherry-like flavours as well. The whisky also has a backdrop of fine oak and grain spices which keeps the palate lively.

The whisky can certainly be sipped, and when a dabble of ice is added to the glass the peaty flavours are augmented by impressions of chocolate. I would suggest however, that the whisky should certainly be considered for both tall and short cocktails. One serving in particular works very well,the Rusty Nail (see recipe below).

In the Throat 13/15

The exit is mid-length and smooth with herbal grassy flavours followed by hints of rain and prunes. There is a light lingering sweetness which seems to permeate the last punch of peat.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky from Johnnie Walker is a nice dram. I indicated in my preamble that I felt the whisky was perhaps lower down the rungs of the ladder than the iconic Johnny Walker Black and that seems to be born out by my tastings. It seems a little younger and a little less refined. I suspect though that those who prefer a slightly bigger punch of peat in their mouth than Johnny Walker Black offers will be quite satisfied with what they find.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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Suggested Recipes

Rusty Nail

The official IBA (International Bartenders Association) formulation for the Rusty Nail is nine parts of Scotch Whisky to 5 parts of Drambuie.  This is a rather awkward recipe, so Instead I will suggest a simple 2:1 ratio achieves very nice results:

2 oz Johnnie Walker Double Black
1 oz Drambuie
Ice
Lemon slice

First fill an 8 oz tumbler glass with crushed ice.
Add the Scotch Whisky and the Drambuie
Stir gently until a the outside of the glass frosts.
Garnish with a lemon slice.
Enjoy!

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As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 
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