We are continuing our mission to review all of the Johnnie Walker Labels with the goal of doing a blind taste test at the end to determine which is the best Johnnie Walker. After reviewing Red, Black, Double Black, and Green, we are now at Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve. Following this review, we’ll have their 18 Year and then the Blue Label.
For an in-depth discussion about the history of Johnnie Walker, you can check out our JW Red vs Black guide. Otherwise, we’re going to focus on the specifics of the Gold Label and how it’s different from the other selections. Is Johnnie Walker Gold the best of the lineup? Let’s find out.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Overview
- Spirit: Blended Scotch Whisky
- Owned By: Diageo
- Distilled By: Clynelish, Blair Athol, Cardhu, and Cameronbridge, possibly among others
- Aged: NAS (3+ Years, but likely much longer)
- ABV: 40%, 80 proof
- Mashbill: Blend of 100% malted barley and unknown single grain whisky(ies)
- Price: $75-85
Blended Scotch Whisky
People often think about the regions in which Scotch is produced – whether it’s Highlands, Lowlands, Islay, Speyside, or Campbeltown; however, there’s another way to look at it. The 5 types of Scotch.
- Single Malt
- Single Grain
- Blended Malt
- Blended Grain
- Blended Scotch
Single malt scotch is produced at a single distillery and uses 100% malted barley. Single grain is produced at a single distillery and uses a mixture of cereal grains. Note that ‘single’ does not mean that a single grain is used or a single barrel. Single refers to the fact that the whisky is produced at a single distillery.
Blended malt scotch is a blend of 2 or more single malts from different distilleries. Blended grain scotch is a blend of two or more single grain scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
Blended scotch must contain at least one single malt and at least one single grain whisky from different distilleries.
All of the Johnnie Walker colored labels are blended scotch whiskies with the exception of Green Label, which is a blended malt whisky.
Who Distills Johnnie Walker Gold Label?
Johnnie Walker doesn’t distill any of their own whisky. It’s all sourced from various distilleries in Scotland and blended together. Luckily for Johnnie Walker, their parent company, Diageo, owns many Scottish distilleries.
The back of the Gold Label box lists 4 distilleries that Gold Label sources whisky from, all four of which are owned by Diageo.
Single malts from the Highlands include Clynelish and Blair Athol. Cardhu produces single malt scotch out of Speyside, and Cameronbridge produces the single grain whisky out of the Lowlands.
There are likely many other distilleries used for this blend, but these are the ones we know for sure.
Johnnie Walker Gold Age Statement
Johnnie Walker Gold used to hold an 18 year age statement, but it was separated into two whiskies. They began producing an 18 Year scotch without any colored label (although it’s JW Platinum in certain countries), and Johnnie Walker Gold simply had it’s age statement removed.
Scotch must be aged at least 3 years, but we can infer that most of the whisky in the bottle is much older.
Johnnie Walker Black has a 12 year age statement, Johnnie Walker Green has a 15 year age statement, and Johnnie Walker Gold Label is more expensive than both of those.
Cardhu, Blair Athol, and Clynelish produce a lot of single malts in the 12-18 year range while Cameronbridge makes a lot of 20+ year old single grain whiskies. While this doesn’t mean these are the exact ages of the whisky they source, I’d bet it’s a blend of whisky in those ranges.
Johnnie Walker Gold Price
Johnnie Walker Gold is typically found around the $75 mark. It sits right in between Green ($60) and 18 Year ($90). The price of JW Gold can vary greatly. Some people find it closer to the $85 price point and close to $90, and I bought my bottle for $60 at Total Wine around the Denver area. It wasn’t on sale or anything, that’s just the price it was sold for, but almost everywhere else sells it in the $75 to lower 80’s.
I may be more bias in my review simply because it costed me $20 less than most people can get it for, but I’ll try to think of it as a $75 bottle.
Johnnie Walker Gold Tasting Notes
Nose: There’s clearly some peat, but it’s not aggressive. Honey, pears, caramel apples, a touch of smoke and brine. Reminds me a bit honey wafer like those Stinger bars. A little wet earth from the peat opens up after some time.
Palate: The peat is most noticeable on the palate, but, again, it’s not aggressive in the least – it’s actually right where I like my wheelhouse of peat levels. Light smoke and brine. More honey and caramel with some lighter fruits. A touch of spice.
Finish: Same thing here. A light aftertaste, but a lasting one. A little bit of wood comes in to play, but I primarily get smoke and honey.
I’m torn with this. Johnnie Walker Gold is what you’d call an extremely smooth sipper. I could walk around a party and drink this all night long – sipping whisky, hanging out, and not giving it a thought. When I sit down with it and try to analyze it, it’s quite uninteresting. I mean, there’s some lighter fruits, honey, and smoke, brine, and peat from the Islay scotch, but all the flavors are light and subdued.
Johnnie Walker Gold is “The Celebration Blend” as it says on the box. It’s very easy to drink and it’s easy to enjoy. It’s 7:30 AM over here, and I’m drinking scotch. Not only that, but it’s going down easy. If you’re looking for richness and complexity, find another scotch. If you want a smooth, soft scotch, this may be right up your alley.
Is Johnnie Walker Gold The Best Johnnie Walker?
In my opinion, no.
I’m still riding with Johnnie Walker Green Label, but have yet to try the 18 Year and Blue Label. A blind taste test will put all of these to a true test of which is best, though.
I know some people don’t like whisky to be described as “smooth”, but Johnnie Walker Gold is the smoothest of the group so far. When it comes to flavor and taste, both the Green and Black labels have peat, but they also just have more going along with it.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Summary
If you could care less about a whiskies complexity, depth, range, and richness, this may be the perfect scotch for you. I don’t say that in a snotty, whisky connoisseur kind of way, either. Not everyone wants a 120 proof whisky to over analyze. After all, whisky is meant to be drunken and it’s meant to be enjoyed – and Johnnie Walker Gold is a very enjoyable whisky to drink.
The issue is with the price. There are plenty of smooth scotch whiskies out there. Glenfiddich and Glenlivet are enjoyable for half the price. I think Gold Label is better than both of those, but if price is a concern, they’ll work just fine. BUT, that’s another big selling point of Johnnie Walker Gold – it’s price. You want a smooth scotch, and you want to show off a little bit, or butter some people up? There’s Blue Label for $200, or a nice Gold Label for $75. Still a top shelf scotch that is recognizable, but for less than half the price of Blue.
At the end of the day, this is all very subjective. If I’m looking for rich flavors, it’s Johnnie Walker Green Label. However, I do think Johnnie Walker Gold is perfect for celebrations, as I think it’s much friendlier than some of the other expressions. Let me know your favorite Johnnie Walker in the comments!