...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Taste-Off: Dewar's White Label vs. Johnnie Walker Red Label


We all knew this was inevitable.

My past experiences with these two blends have been less than positive.  Specifically the one on the left.  But it's been a very long time since either of these whiskys found their way into my glass.  With time healing any wounds resulting from those previous drinking......events, perhaps it was time to match  up Dewar's White Label and Johnnie Walker Red Label and try them side by side.  Sort out the negatives and identify the positives.


That sound you didn't just hear was me sighing at my misguided optimism.

Here is a picture me, mid Taste-Off:

Kristen's mom took the picture then texted it to me with the caption:
This is what happens when tasting Dewar's.
I read that and immediately thought of the spoken wisdoms of one Walter Sobchak (of Lebowski fame), and decided to amend one of Walter's meditations to fit this event:

You see what happens, Larry?

You see what happens, Larry?

Do you see what happens when you drink Dewar's White Label?!
(your hair falls out and you wear a silver bow around your head while watching the Muppet Christmas Carol)

I'm going to skip the usual Taste Off pomp and circumstance, and go directly to the notes. Because.


Ownership: Diageo (boo)
Distilleries: 35 whiskys; though I was recently told by someone in the know that unpeated Caol Ila was the main malt element
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: at least 3 years, doubtful that it's much older
Blend: single malts and grain whiskies
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill-filtered? Yes
Caramel Coloring? a ridiculous amount

JW Red Label has been around since 1906, though for its first few years it was called Special Old Highland.  The blend's recipe and quality has certainly changed over the years, as noted by some Malt Maniacs (especially Oliver, see this post!).  I used to think that it was an eight-year-old blend, but I don't know why or how that misnomer entered my consciousness.  The JWRL malt is very very very young.

Selling millions of cases every year this is the highest-selling blend in the world.  I'm sorry, world.  :(

Color -- For infant whisky it is weirdly dark and reddish. How much colorant did they pump into this thing?
Nose -- Generic citrus, light sherry, rotting cream, vanilla beans, and maple syrup.
Palate -- Not peat smoke but more like old used "tobacco" rolling papers, vanilla, granulated sugar, a light bitterness
Finish -- Vanilla, light bitterness, light sourness. Leaves an unidentifiable funk on the tongue.

Nose -- Soil, apple juice, marshmallows, hay.
Palate -- Old peat ashes, dirt, cardboard, vanilla, and the light bitterness.
Finish -- Ashes, mouth drying bitterness, sadness.

Further comments to follow below.


Distilleries: many, main malt component likely Aberfeldy
Age: at least 3 years, doubtful that it's much older
Blend: single malts and grain whiskies
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill-filtered? Yes
Caramel Coloring? Yes

Last year at this time, I did a report on Dewar's 12 year-old Special Reserve blend and discovered that it wasn't terribly special.  But it's positively gorgeous when compared to White Label.  This quality problem is unfortunate since Aberfeldy (their main malt) is pretty good on its own.

Their website notes that Dewar's is The Drinking Man's Scotch.  Then I am clearly not a drinking man.

Color -- Apple juice
Nose -- Sour ethyl, apples, vanilla, fruit cocktail juice, wet cardboard
Palate -- Bitter, generic cereal grains, mild chocolate, mild vanilla, Bitter
Finish -- Bitter! Bitter. Oh so very bitter. Not interesting, palatable bitter. Instead, arsenic.

Nose -- Ethyl, gumdrops, generic cereal grains, a little sherry peeks out, whipped cream
Palate -- Bitter, but less so. A little maltier. Some maple syrup. Not much else.
Finish -- Just, off. A weird sweetness, like aspartame. And also bitter.

The nose isn't awful.  But I cannot imagine their blending team tasting this and saying, "Yes, this is how we would like to represent our brand."

Further comments to follow below.

After adding water to these two fine blends, I discovered that I couldn't bring myself to finish either of them, so I blended them together in even amounts (about 0.5oz each).  Yum, right?

Nose -- citrus, sherry, Red Label dominant
Palate -- vanilla, sherry, meh
Finish -- mercifully short

Still couldn't finish 'em off, so I dumped the remainder over some ice cubes.

Bland peat, imitation vanilla extract, aspartame, and lightly bitter

Continuing to drink this became too masochistic for me.  The sink was forced to consume the rest.

Final comments:

Johnnie Walker Red Label
What can I say?  It won the Taste Off.  Congrats.

The nose is more inviting than the palate.  The finish is pretty hideous, so much so that I would hesitate even recommending the use of this for mixing and cocktails.  Many of the blends at its price range are better, or for $5 more there's Glenfiddich 12yr or Tomatin 12yr.

This is light years from Black Label's quality.  But it is better than...

Dewar's White Label
Who is this for?  Seriously, who is this for?  Aside from its disagreeableness, and bitterness, it's also sort of......boring.  At its price range, I'd recommend buying anything else.  Even vodka.

If you were to receive a bottle of this as a gift, what is it good for?  Fending off home intruders.  The bottle glass is pretty sturdy and the whisky gives it some heft and momentum when braining a robber.

But the Red Label is even better for self defense with its right angles.

So, again:
Johnnie Walker Red Label  >  Dewar's White Label
Though that is faint praise.  There's not much that White Label betters.

Okay, I guess I thought of something:
Dewar's White Label  >  Tequila-induced Fire-Ass
But not by much.


Johnnie Walker Red Label
Availability - Everywhere!
Pricing - $18-$25
Rating - 66

Dewar's White Label
Availability - Everywhere!
Pricing - $17-$25
Rating - 58