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Johnnie Walker Red Label

Review: Johnnie Walker Red Label Old Scotch Whisky   (81/100)
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on April 21, 2017

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.

Johnnie Walker Red Label, the flagship brand, was created in 1909 and it is now is the best-selling Scotch Whisky in the world. It is a blended Scotch Whisky composed of up to 35 grain and malt whiskies.

The Red Label 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 tilted approximately 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 8/10

Johnnie Walker Red Label is an amber coloured whisky with a hue which has just turned that corner towards copper. The initial aroma which rises into the breezes above the glass moderately complex with grain and fine oak spices melding into a light butterscotch. There is a dollop of boggy peat in the air and floral smells of heather and menthol. When I tilt the glass and give it a twirl,I found the crest surprisingly stubborn for what is reported to be a young blend. Eventually some stubborn drooplets formed slender legs which ambled back into the whisky.

I gave the glass some time to breathe and discovered that the smells of malted barley and grain seemed to have grown in strength when I returned after a few minutes. 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

When I took my first sip, I noticed immediately that the dollop of boggy peat I noticed in the initial breezes was right there again riding along with a ribbon of butterscotch, some spicy grain and fine oak spice. I seem to taste some light cherry-like flavours and dry fruit implying that at least some of this blend was aged in sherry casks. Vanilla and almond flavours with perhaps a hint of corn suggest to me that bourbon casks also found their way into the blending regime as well. 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 is a dram which rates very high on complexity, but falls short in terms of balance. The whisky improves markedly with ice, 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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