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Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Review: Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky   (81.5/100)
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
December, 26  2020

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. The company has been operating since 1820, and has grown steadily to become one of the most important Scottish whisky brands in the world today.

According to my research, Johnnie Walker Red Label has undergone a small change recently. When I published my last review in 2017 it was advertised as containing up to 35 grain and malt whiskies. Today (December 2020) the Johnnie Walker Website has this to say about its iconic blend:

Johnnie Walker Red Label is a powerful mix of up to 30 malts and grains. It’s a combination of light whiskies from Scotland’s East Coast and more peaty whiskies from the West, expertly balanced to create an extraordinary depth of flavour.

With up to 5 grain and malt whiskies no longer in the blend, it could be that we may notice some small changes in the flavour profile, so I thought an updated review might be appropriate.

Johnny Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky is currently the best selling scotch whisky in the World ant in Canada it is sold at 40 % alcohol by volume.

red-labelIn the Bottle 4.5/5

Johnnie Walker Red Label 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 is said to be 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. Artist/Cartoonist, Tom Browne created the logo 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.

I find the presentation of the Johnnie Walker Red Label professional and appealing. My niggle with it is the metallic screw cap which provides an inferior seal, and is prone to stripping.

In the Glass 8.5/10

Colour: Amber

Legs: Droplets at the crest form slender legs

The initial aroma which rises into the breezes above the glass moderately complex with grain and fine oak spices accompanied by a light sweetness of butterscotch and hints of almond. There is a touch of boggy peat in the air and herbal notes which remind me of heather and menthol.

Aromas of malted barley and grain spice seem to have grow in strength as I nose the glass. These aromas have began to meld into the oak spice giving the dram a more robust character than I had anticipated. Sour apples, a light piny quality, winding almond and a sweep of vanilla round out the nose which has lost some of that boggy peat which I noticed when I first poured the dram.

In the Mouth  49/60

There is a touch of boggy peat accompanied by a ribbon of butterscotch, some spicy grain, hints of almond and a bevy fine oak spice. I seem to taste some light raisin-like flavours and other dry fruit implying that at least some of this blend was aged in sherry casks. Vanilla, that hint of almond, and a suggestion of corn indicates to me that bourbon casks have also found their way into the blend. Sour apple, canned peaches and orange peel give the blend an added fruitiness with some nutty barley, spicy ginger, and grassy tobacco completing my flavour descriptors.

Although the whisky seems to have a strong complexity, it is nevertheless a bit difficult to sip neat as the spirit has both a penetrating grain spice and honey-like sweetness which becomes cloying rather quickly. When I add a bit of ice to the dram, things are better and if you like a light punch of peat you will be happy to know that the cooling ice brings out a nice low draw of smoke.

In the Throat  11.5/15

Sipped neat the whisky has an herbal dryness combined with that penetrating grain spice and sweetness. The whisky becomes cloying quite quickly making the finish more enjoyable with the dampening effect of ice. Even better yet, add a splash of ginger-ale as well.

The Afterburn  8/10

Johnny Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky is a dram which is very complexity, but the whisky falls short in terms of balance. The pour improves with ice added, and is even better with a splash of soda-water or ginger-ale. Fortunately for the folks at Diageo, most persons prefer to mix their whisky with ice and soda which (I am sure) is the reason why the Red Label is so popular.

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


Suggested Recipe:

red-label-splashThe Red Label Splash

2 oz Johnnie Walker Red Label Whisky
Splash of Ginger-ale
Coil of Lemon Peel

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Whisky over the ice
Add a splash of Ginger Ale
Garnish with a coil of lemon peel

Enjoy responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


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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