I have long relied on Johnnie Walker’s 12-year old ‘Black Label’ blended whisky (aka JWB) as a standard everyday drinking whisky and a standard of quality against other blends. I’ve compared JWB to Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker’s Green Label and special releases, various other ‘two Jackson‘ ($40) whiskies, a Compass Box blend, and Dewar’s Ancestor. And today we’re at it again, comparing the Johnnie Walker ‘Double Black’ to the venerable JWB.
You may have seen the range of special-release whiskies following the Game of Thrones TV series. I had a lot of other whiskies to review stacked up so did not catch any of those when they arrived, but recently I stumbled across a discount shelf with this blend from Johnny Walker. I always keep some Johnnie Walker Black around, and I figured, why not give this a comparison to the standard. Also, I have read the SOIAF books and followed (suffered?) through the Game of Thrones series on HBO until the end. I even mused here on the blog about the annoying habit of showrunners sending their characters into danger without proper headgear. So, the buy was a no-brainer.
Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label is a no age statement blended whisky that sells for $200 for a 750 ml. bottle. That’s some coin for a blend! So what makes JW’s Blue so special? According to Johnnie Walker (link above) the Blue is:
“an exquisite combination of Scotland’s rarest and most exceptional whiskies. Only one in every ten thousand casks has the elusive quality, character and flavor to deliver the remarkable signature taste.” They also give us some of the constituent whiskies: “Johnnie Walker Blue Label is created using a selection of rare casks from the Speyside and Highland distilleries – including delicate Cardhu and Clynelish, warm, rounded Benrinnes, as well as Islay malts for our signature smokiness.”
My Dewars vs. Johnnie Walker Red post was so popular, I reprised with the Irish titans, Bushmills vs. Jameson. Today, it’s Ballantine’s 12 vs. the venerable (and titanic) Johnnie Walker Black, another 12-year old blend.
The Ballantine’s story
So, who are behind Ballantine’s? George, the namesake, started his distillery in 1827, and gained some recognition in 1895 with a royal warrant. Ballantine’s Finest was developed in 1910. Their main expression, it sells 200,000 bottles a day according to their site. Assuming a 700 ml bottle, that’s 51 million liters a year! Prodigious. In 1959, they came up with the 12-year expression which is the subject of this review.
In the previous post, I mentioned Dewar’s old full-page magazine ads, with the Scots Guard soldier or some other Scottish kitsch. I also mentioned the ubiquity of White Label, the fifth largest selling blended Scotch in the world and top selling Scotch in the U.S.
Dewar’s web site claims the White label is “The World’s Most Awarded Blended Scotch Whisky.” This post is going to answer the question, is it any good for sipping? And to give it some spice, we’re setting the White up against a competitor, the Red, from Johnnie Walker.
The Dewar’s packaging, like the ’12’, is in a classic style, again heavy on the heritage with “True Scotch” announced just below the “White Label”, rendered in some old-timey font. Boy howdy, glad to see we don’t have a fake scotch on our hands. I have a warm feeling inside (and I haven’t even tried any), like when I get the Domino’s box with ‘Real cheese’ emblazoned on the side. Lower down we see the ‘Gold and Prize 500 medals’ claimed. I guess they are including silver, bronze, even iron medals? Who knows.