...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NOT Single Malt Report: Johnnie Walker Black Label

Distillery: Many!
Producer: Diaego
Brand: Johnnie Walker
Age: minimum 12 years
Blend: single malts and grain whiskies
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Obsidian Sobriquet.  You arrived early, during my novice years.  I tired of you then, the Irish became my scene.  Then I met a young lass, named Kristen Perry, who at age 19 already knew you better than I ever did.  You fell out of her fashion, and again, you fell out of mine.  As the years passed, you crept back in, becoming my go-to at restaurants because you were more affordable than single malts and treated me significantly better than Red Label and Dewars.  But we fell out of favour again, single malts were just too attractive.

Then you appeared on the kitchen counter of my new home.  I was told that you were a gift from one of Kristen's coworkers.  But I believe that you found me on your own.  And you were free.

May I repeat:  You, whisky, were free.

I wish I knew how to quit you.

Diageo says that you are made up of 40 separate whiskies from all over Scotland.  Your recipe is a secret, but it is said that Cardhu is at your center.  And I can sense Talisker at your peripheries.  You were the favorite of Churchill and Hitchens, remarkable drinkers both.  You've gone by the name Black Label since 1909, but were released under the appellation "Old Highland" for over forty years before.

You are chillfiltered for clarity.  And your color is much too perfect, so there's likely some caramel coloring within.  You've been, at turns, too smoky, too sour, and too lazy for me.  But no more.  I recommend you to anyone looking to transition from "scotch on the rocks" to single malt whisky.

When served neat, you are picture perfect sherried dark gold.  There's sherry in your nose, as well as candied cherries, molasses, a snippet of peat, and grilled vegetables.  I rarely pick up so much in a whisky's scent, but you and I have been together for some time.  And even Kristen knows you from across the room.  Your neat palate is quite simple: molasses, wet peat, and a hint of grain.  Your finish is moderate and oceanic.

But with a bit of water you just shine.  Three small ice cubes, recommended.  Your nose pivots to mild cheeses and sweet cream.  On the palate the molasses vanishes, replaced by sherry cream and grasses.  And that water doesn't alter your finish.

An hour later, the glass smells of molasses cookie batter.

Now leave me please.  I cannot write with you here.

Pricing - Bargain! at $25, Acceptable at $35
Rating - 88


  1. My entire Scotch life was built upon Black Label. JW's international dominance is as close to a monopoly as you can find. Being from a different land, I grew up on this stuff as this was king in my household. This was what my dad and his friends drank, and drank they did.

    Nothing like being 21, ordering a Black Label on the rocks and having the bartender look at you funny as he says, "You look about 30 years too young to be drinking that". Black Label has a special place in my heart. It is important to remember and celebrate where you came from.

    Thank you Diving for Pearls, Thank you Black Label, and Thank you Pops for introducing me to the wonderful world of Scotch Whiskey via this gold standard.

  2. @East Coaster

    That is awesome. I am jealous on a number of levels.

    You know what we had around my household? Manischewitz.


    I think I ordered Skyy vodka shots on my 21st. F***.

    But serious props to your dad. Black is a perfect blend of all that is whisky. Some sherry finish, bourbon finish, peat smoke and grains. JW really got their recipe right. And Diaego knew a winner when they found it, introducing a great whiskey foundation to all.

  3. This is the perfect definition of definition.

    Thank you.


    Oops... Slainte