A while back we reviewed Johnnie Walker Black vs Red, but we decided that the worlds most popular scotch needed more coverage. So, we figured we’d just move down the line and compare Johnnie Walker Black vs Double Black.
It’s been over a year since I’ve had JW Black, so I’m excited to see if it’s how I remember it or if it’ll change now that I’ve drunken much more scotch. After this, we may move on to the green, gold, 18 yr, and blue label to get a full comparison of all the Johnnie Walker expressions.
Johnnie Walker History
John Walker started out as a grocer, where he sold whisky. During this time in the early 1800’s, it was illegal to blend malt and grain whisky, so he sold blended malts and blended grains separately. In 1857, John’s son took over, and their grocery store became more of a liquor store. 90% of their sales would come from whisky under Alexander Walker, in comparison to the 8% under John Walker.
Alexander had the idea to blend whisky from all the different regions and corners of Scotland in what was originally called Walker’s Old Highland.
Johnnie Walker is currently owned by Diageo and is the most popular scotch in the world, by quite a wide margin, too.
What Kind of Scotch is Johnnie Walker?
Johnnie Walker is a blended scotch whisky – meaning it’s a blend of malt whisky and grain whisky.
Johnnie Walker Black and Double Black both have over 30 different whiskies in their blend, and each region of Scotland is represented. Black and Double Black are meant to be smokier variations of Johnnie Walker, so they use a couple Islay whiskies in their blend, one of which comes from Lagavulin.
Blended Scotch Whisky
Blended Scotch is simultaneously the most popular and most criticized type of scotch. I think in the recent years, people have come to appreciate it more, but there are certainly some valid criticisms to it.
When you’re blending whisky together, you get a more uniform taste, something that’s often more affordable and approachable, too. Hence why it’s the most popular…. it’s something almost any whisky drinker can enjoy. On the flip side, your more experienced drinker will often look at blended scotch as an uninteresting pour.
Johnnie Walker Black vs Double Black Overview
|Johnnie Walker Black||Johnnie Walker Double Black|
|Spirit||Blended Scotch||Blended Scotch|
|Age||12 years in ex-bourbon barrels||At least 3 years|
Johnnie Walker Double Black is essentially the younger brother to JW Black. In terms of both time spent in the barrel, and the time they’ve been around. They both use the same whiskies in the blend, it’s just a difference of proportion and aging.
Why, then, is the younger whisky more expensive? Well, first off, the age statement of a blended whisky coincides with the youngest whisky in the blend. Johnnie Walker Double Black may be mostly 12 year whisky, or even older. It may be just one young whisky that they add to drop it down to a NAS (minimum of 3 years) whisky. The whisky is then matured in heavily charred oak barrels.
Johnnie Walker Double Black also uses a higher proportion of Islay whisky in order to give it a smokier, peaty profile.
Johnnie Walker Black vs Double Black Tasting Notes
This is the real information we’re looking for. When it comes to Johnny Walker Black vs Double Black, which is better? What do they taste like? It’s time to pour myself a couple drams and find out!
Johnnie Walker Black Profile
Nose: Definitely get a little bit of that peat smoke, but it’s muted. It’s also a lot darker than I remember from a color and aroma standpoint. dark dried fruits, raspberry and blackberry jam, some honey.
Palate: The nose transfers over pretty well, but there’s some extra honey and raisin on the palate than the nose. The peat smoke is delayed at first, but shows up at the end and into the finish. Pretty good viscosity.
Finish: Peat smoke goes into pepper and then dies. Short to medium in length, but quite easy and buttery.
Johnnie Walker Black is certainly darker than I remember. The raisin, fruity jam, and smoke combine to what I think is a pretty nice whisky. There’s a decent balance to the smoke and sweetness. It’s not very complex and lacks some on the finish, but it’s an easy sipper.
Now that I’ve been drinking more scotch, and more Islay Scotch, it’s nice to enjoy the peat smoke without the intensity of Islay single malts.
Johnnie Walker Double Black Profile
Nose: As expected, there’s more smoke and toast. It’s not as peaty, light, or sweet/salty as JW Black. It’s a campfire smoke. Barrel char, leather, marshmallow, but certainly not overpowering. There’s jam and toast here, too.
Palate: Again, the nose transfers over to the palate quite well, but it’s not as thick. A little more rash. Raisin, toast, jam, honey. The peat smoke is dry and a little more prominent. There’s also a little bit of a medicinal quality to it.
Finish: Fairly easy, short to medium in length. There’s some pepper and honey, but then it dies.
Johnnie Walker Double Black has a lot of the same notes in comparison to Johnnie Walker Black. I mean, it’s not really a surprise here, but Double Black is kind of exactly what you’d expect it to be.
The smoke is stronger, and it’s a warmer campfire smoke with more barrel char. Other than that, there’s plenty of cross over with dark fruits, jam, raisin, and honey. The finish was pretty tame, but there was a slight medicinal quality to it that I didn’t love.
Johnnie Walker Black vs Double Black, Which is Better?
I don’t think you can go wrong with either of these, but I think I’m going to choose Johnnie Walker Black over Double Black which is a little surprising for me.
When it comes to smokey scotch, I typically like your campfire smoke more than a peaty smoke. Peat smoke, to me, is more light, wet, salty, and green. Campfire smoke is the barrel char, toasted bread, leather, and so forth. Both of these are characteristics of peated/Islay whisky, but they’re slightly different variations.
Somehow, though, I liked the peat from JW Black, and I think it was more balanced between smoke and fruit. JW Black had stronger raisin notes, stronger jam, and dark fruits while still having that smoke. JW Double Black is right there with it, but I think the smoke was turned up and the dark fruits were turned down just a bit.
The last little difference was the mouthfeel. Both have very easy finishes – which is typical of blended scotch/Johnnie Walker and 80 proof whisky – but the Black felt more rounded to me.
There’s not a big enough price or taste difference here to really make a fuss about value. I like Johnnie Walker Black vs Double Black and it’s $7 or so cheaper, so that’s what I’d buy.
If you prefer Johnnie Walker Double Black vs Black, then it’s only an extra $7 or so, so not a big jump if that’s what you prefer.
Johnnie Walker Black vs Double Black Summary
I will say that I like Johnnie Walker Black more than I remembered. I may have to move forward with this, too and review the green and gold labels next.
Both Black and Double Black are good options when it comes to Johnnie Walker, especially if you like a smoky or peaty whisky. Now, if you’re a Laphroaig, Ardbeg, or Lagavulin fanatic, then these will likely fall short of the mark, but they’re solid intros into the world of peated scotch.
There’s a reason why Johnnie Walker is the most popular scotch in the world. It’s easy, approachable, smooth, and cost effective. Sure, they also lack a unique, powerful finish, but they are good everyday sipping whiskies.