Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Johnnie Walker Double Black

Purchasing an unfamiliar brand or a new release scotch whisky from even a familiar brand is much like gambling.

Think about it.  You weigh your bet by reading the lyrical tasting notes on the whisky container or back of the bottle that are invariably attributed to the master blender.   They read like the bad poetry of a lovesick high school nitwit.  Such puffery is about as reliable as the declarations of luv of the aforementioned high school Shakespearean.

Like the scotch nut that you are, consulting other sources is a compulsion.  A must.  Hell! A categorical imperative!  So, you scour the internet for 'tasting notes,' 'reviews' . . . oh hell anything that might give you an insight or reveal a 'tell' as to what the scotch really tastes like.  You even check out a purported 'bible' of scotch reviews.  The tome reads well and seems informative, until you decide to test its reliability by flipping to some bad whisky, only to behold yet another glowing review.

But . . . in the end, doesn't it sometimes just come down to the attractive shape, heft, appearance of the bottle, packaging, and maybe the reputation of the distillery or brand?  So, you just push 'all-in' pre-flop by paying the price and going home, pouring a dram to see if you 'hit' on the flop.

At least that was how it was for me when I first learned that Diageo (the company which owns the iconic Johnnie Walker brand) announced the test launch of a new extension to the Johnnie Walker brand: Johnnie Walker Double Black.  I read everything I could and most of it was the same press release from Diageo, but reworded by the spirits press and whisky websites.

Initially, the 2010 release of Double Black was limited to just six exotic duty free stores of certain international airports around the world: Dubai, Beirut, JFK, Bangkok, Singapore, and Sydney.  Needless to say, I do not go in and out of those airports, so I knew I had to wait.  If sales were good, Diageo would expand distribution to broader markets.  So, two years later, I was able to procure a bottle once it became more widely available in North America.

So, what's it taste like.  Did I go bust by buying this or double up?  Let's see:

Nose (undiluted)
Sophisticated but subtle.  Kinda like Miles Davis using the mute on his trumpet early in his recording career.  Sweet.  Seaweed, iodine and fishing nets drying in the afternoon sun.  Pinewood fires.

Palate (undiluted)
 Smooth Lapsang souchong tea, sweet Ceylon black teas, pine needles and a smoking camp-fire at dusk.

Finish (undiluted)
Unmistakable Islay finish of wood smoke, Atlantic ocean salt, gingery green seaweed, and a subtle sherry warmth spreading across the chest.  A feeling of heat and safety envelopes you.  Great length of flavors on the finish.

Is Double Black Similar to Black Label 12 yrs?
The packaging describes this spirit as "a blended whisky created in the style of Johnnie Walker Black Label but with a rich, more intense, smokier flavour."  Reading that sentence, one would surmise that if they are a Black Label fan, then they will certainly enjoy Double Black.

I am not so sure.

I agree that Double Black is smokier than the standard Black Label.  Moreover, there is a house style common to all Johnnie Walker products and Double Black is no exception.  The similarity is in the languid, rich mouth feel.  The grain whiskies behave well.  Double Black is smooth, no burning or raw alcohol.  But, that is about it for similarities with the standard Black Label.

The reason I am unconvinced that Black Label fans may be enamoured with Double Black stems from the fact that Double Black entirely lacks the spicy caramel, cinnamon, and malty brown sugar that is much of the backbone of this classic blend.  The 12 year old Johnnie Walker Black Label at the mid-palate point, becomes smokier with Talisker.  It wonderfully compliments the caramel, brown sugar and citrus/malt notes.

By contrast, Double Black is just peaty and smoky.

Yes, there is some black tea action going on, coupled with seaweed and maybe a bit pine needles.  But, the smoke and peat dominates those flavors.  As a result, Double Black's smoke and peat has no interplay or call and response with other flavor notes like you experience in the standard bottling where burnt cinnamon toast and caramel have a tug of war with the smoke and peat of Talisker and other Islays.

Accordingly, the standard Black Label is . . . dare I say . . . better?  Yeah, I'll say it.  I like the Black Label better than Double Black.  This is not to say that the Double Black is a poor blended scotch.  Quite the contrary.  Double Black is a luxuriant, smooth blend, but with a heavy emphasis on the Islay region to the exclusion of all other flavors.

Where Black Label seemed to be firmly in Speyside with some smoke from Islay, Double Black packed up its bags and moved out of Speyside and set up a tent in Islay.

Remember the Pepsi Challenge?
Let me put it another way.  Are you familiar with Highland Park 12 If so, compare it to Highland Park 18. In many ways, Highland Park 18 is the 12 on steroids.  Everything in the little brother 12 is found in the 18, but punched up a couple of notches, mind you in the most elegant and brilliant of ways.  The 18 stands on the shoulders of the 12.  You can trace the genealogy of the 18 easily back to the 12 in the tasting.

The same sibling rivalry cannot be said of Johnnie Walker Black 12 yrs and Double Black when they go head to head in a Pepsi challenge or G-d forbid: a whisky death matchThey are not brothers or even distant cousins.
Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky Global Brand Director, David Gates has been quoted as saying Diageo wants the consumer to perceive Black Label and Double Black as 'brothers.'

"We want consumers to recognize that they are brothers."

 That may be the intent, but this is one rare instance where Diageo has failed in its execution.  Black Label and Double Black have little in common other than being brands owned by the same company.  The former is caramel, citrus, toffee and spices, with some smoke, while the latter has none of the aforementioned flavors (except for smoke), and instead is dominated by the tastes of peat, smoke, black teas and a wee sherry/malt on the finish.  (Note:  Apparently Double Black does not use any sherry casks in the blend, but I am tasting something akin to sherry on the finish anyway.)

I suspect that Diageo positioned Double Black as a 'brother' to Black Label in order to capitalize on the well deserved reputation of the latter.  Do not be fooled by this marketing slight of hand.  Double Black and Black Label are very different scotch whiskies.  Both are good, but different!

Another reason Diageo may have tried to link these two expressions as brothers is due to the strong brand loyalty of blended scotch drinkers.  Consumers who regularly consume blended scotch tend to be loyal to their 'brand' and are less likely to experiment with single malts and other brands.  Such blended scotch drinkers very much identify with a particular brand all their life.  If Diageo can convince some of their blended scotch customers to pay more without an age statement, it could be very lucrative, as has been the case with Blue Label.

Price Point Analysis
Johnnie Walker Double Black is substantially more expensive when compared to Johnnie Walker Black Label.  In Canada, specifically Ontario, Double Black is $69.  A price point that is inhabited by more than a few good Islay single malts.  Bowmore 12 is $10 cheaper.  Talisker 10 is about $6 more.  Go to the United States and you can pick up Black Bottle for 1/3 of the price of Double Black.  Bottom line:  Double Black is very expensive.  Not a value for money play by any means.

So, why the high price?
The high price functions to assure the consumer that he or she is drinking a whisky that takes no chances in offending you.  No bite, raw alcohol or bitterness when you pay full retail on this whisky.  This is exactly what the brand loyal blended scotch whisky consumer expects and is prepared to pay a premium for.  Diageo know their market, and have targeted their blended scotch consumer very well.  They are unconcerned with the opinions of scotch aficionados (like me) because they are not targeting that segment of the marketplace.  One must remember that over 85% of all single malts produced are for blended scotch consumption.  That's the largest segment of the market and where the money is.

A Gift?
If you are reading this post because you are considering purchasing this as a gift (and unconcerned with value for money matters), you will be on pretty safe ground.  Double Black delivers smooth waves of peat and smoke over black tea flavors.  Totally inoffensive and quite pleasant.  No sharp or bitter flavors.

Here's the one significant weakness of this blended scotch.  Given the expensive price, serious scotch whisky consumers will expect to be 'wowed' a little.  Complex flavors that dance on the palate.  Not here.

The first sip is probably the best.  It exhibits some intricacy.  A wee little spice and nuance.  But, the whisky does not stand up to repeated sips.  It becomes too rounded, sweet and gentle to make you sit up and admire any complexity.  There should be more here for the price.

And the winner is . . .

Not me.  (Not that Diageo care because I am not the loyal blended scotch drinker segment of the market they target with Double Black.)

I paid too much for what I got.  I keep thinking that this tastes a lot like Black Bottle.  While Double Black is somewhat better at about three times the price, it's not that much better.

I like it.  I enjoy it, but just not at that price.  I don't mind paying a lot for scotch whisky, but it better be good.

Double Black is the kind of scotch whisky that I will buy only on sale (at a steep discount) at Duty Free or on sale if I am in the greatest whisky land in the world: New Hampshire (due to their low taxes).  So, I guess I hit the flop, but didn't make much of a hand!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.


  1. Excellently and cleverly written post as always with dead on tasting notes. I've been very curious to try Double Black. Now, in some ways, I'm even more curious. Islay malts are all about terroir. I wonder why Diageo went there as a flavor profile? Have you tried other Islay blends (than Black Bottle - an excellent comparison point) - such as Islay Mist or Black Grouse? I get the feeling Double Black was to be Johnny Walker's Black Grouse.

    1. Interesting that you mention Famous Grouse's 'Black Grouse.' I was thinking how it was similar to Double Black, but lacking a certain sophistication and refinement that DB has.

      I think the impetus for launching Double Black is the opportunity to get existing blended scotch drinkers with brand loyalty to Johnnie Walker to maybe experiment a bit and play on their need to have the 'best' based on the assumption that a higher price means better quality.

  2. Jason, You've keyed-in to exactly the profile and marketing strategy of the newer spirit (more intense smoke and medicinal notes, with similar yet more peated mouth feel). Our local Diageo distributor feels the strategy is to encourage some of the more freely-spending JWB drinkers to feel "safe" in moving a much more premium category, BUT without using more expensive ingredients. The new product features less first fill wood, no sherry wood contact, and a higher proportion of young Caol Ila whiskies. It's a money grab. I personally much prefer the JWDB to the JWB as a dram, but then again, I don't buy either one. I prefer other things at each price point: at $25 US - any number of Bourbons and aged Rums, and at $38 - Highland Park).

    1. Your comment also makes me think about the fact that there is no age statement concerning Double Black. Another way to increase profit.

      They seem to be targeting blended scotch drinkers who tend to be very loyal to their chosen brand. Blended drinkers are not adventurous and therefore are not likely to buy single malts.

    2. Holy ****, I never noticed that! There's no age statement!

  3. I'm from a strange camp of enthusiasts whose Scotch tastes began with a whisky exposure coming in the form of sipping bourbons such as Jim Beam Black and Knob Creek for about a year, and then discovering I liked Scotch via heavy Islay drams (this is the bulk of the 'unusual' part there). I became a peathead off-the-bat. Gradually, I've come to acquire an appreciation for highlands and even the occasional Speysider (I'm yet to taste a Lowland) making me into a more balanced enthusiast with a bit more of an open mind in ideas of intrinsic quality. I havn't tried JW DB, but via your tasting notes and having had the original before, it does sound like the Double Black just doesn't have enough bang-for-buck factor. Big peat is amusing from time to time, but raw peat and smoke with little else, contrary to the views of many hardcore Islay-freaks, is no more sophisticated than the often criticised light and sweet beginners Speysider or Lowlander. Balance and complexity are what grant those 'wow' moments. What's your malt journey been like there, Jason? Hope all's well. Cheers!

    1. Hi Yochanan!

      My scotch whisky journey has been more typical of most consumers. I started with super light weight blends like Famous Grouse because I placed a premium on smooth, inoffensive flavors. Drank Famous Grouse for quite a while and then migrated to blends that were more challenging (less sweet/more smoke) like Teacher's and Johnnie Walker Black.

      During this, what I will term "early period," I started to appreciate light tasting single malts. Early on, as a novice, I tried Laphroaig and considered it to be disgusting. It turned me off completely to single malts. I gave Highland Park 18 a go, but again, it was too strong for me. It was wasted on me.

      Scotch whisky appreciation takes time. I did not give up on single malts. There were many disappointments until Cragganmore 12. That was the first single malt that made me say "wow" out loud. Still like it to this day.

      Cragganmore is very light, gently and yet what can be described as having complexity of flavors. I enjoyed it immensely and still do. From Cragganmore, I was able to take baby steps into bigger and more robust malts. During all of this, I am the first to admit I was not a big peat and smoke malt fan. I like it, but in a gentle, nuanced flavor format. Accordingly, Ardbeg 10 is not a winner in my opinion. But, I also looked at Talisker 10 (not technically an Islay) that introduced me to the magic peat and smoke can weave in a malt.

      I tried a bunch of others but none really won me over, until Lagavulin 16. Wow! The best, widely available, single malt from Islay in my opinion. Laga 16 was a game changer for me that demonstrated Islay malts can be fantastic.

      So, in summary, my whisky route has started with blends but ended with single malts. Started with Speyside and will end as a fan with a deeper appreciation for for gently peated and smoked malts.

      Thanks for commenting. Always a pleasure to read your insights!


    2. Hi Jason,

      Just reading your blog as well as a few comments and I'm curious...

      In what context are you stating that Talisker is not "technically" an Islay?

      I'm curious as to what you mean by that?


    3. Hi Whisky Lassie,

      The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) formally recognizes four whisky producing regions of Scotland: The Highlands, Lowland, Islay and Campbeltown.

      I said that Talisker was not technically an Islay because while it may taste like one and come from an island, it is not located in the Islay region.

      If you look on a map, the Islay region is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

      Meanwhile, Talisker is located on the Isle of Skye. The Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides. The SWA state that Talisker is located within the Highland region. Some have argued that the "Islands" is a subregion of the Highlands to represent whisky producing Islands (not including Islay) like Arran, Jura, Mull, Orkney and Skye. I would agree that these islands are very distinct geographically and in taste from the Highlands. They do share some taste characteristics with Islay, but geographically are not in the same area.

      Hope this helps!

    4. Hi again, I've been to the Talisker Distillery on Skye. A fantastic dram and quite a beautiful island actually. You, have you been?

      I guess I was looking to see if you personally agreed or followed the SWA and also didn't recognize the Islands as a region that is distinct in flavors and geography on its own.

      However, I appreciate that you explained it so that others who may not know will understand the "make-up" of regions. Thanks!

      Whisky Lassie

  4. Here's the other shame about this: most (not all) other Johnnie Walker products are decent value-for-money. Not exceptional, but not clunkers like several other huge marketing. Crown Royal, Jameson, and Jack Daniels come to mind. They carry a "Premium" "Reputation" but really don't amount to much as whiskies.

    However, many of the standard JW products are about where they ought to be. Red and Black are definitely good for blended scotches in their price ranges. Just about everything I've read Gold indicate that it's fairly competitive with blends in it's price range (that is to say, probably not as good as most single malts at that price, but decent in it's own right). Green also carries (carried?) a good reputation.

    Seems Double Black joins Blue as a whisky where the price doesn't deliver on the quality.

    1. Green Label is a big favorite of mine. Sadly, it has been discontinued, so if you want to try it, get it now, as it will probably be out of the US distribution line by the end of the year. Great value for money, and a vatted malt that is better than many single malts in the same price range.

      Black Label is simply the standard that all other blended scotches are measured against. As you know there is a lot going on in this great blend. It's not cheap, but I don't mind paying extra for quality.

      Gold Label also provides complexity of flavor for a blend, a difficult feat. But, it is not cheap. Not convinced it is worth the money. I think it has been announced recently that the 18 year old age statement will stop soon and it will be without any age declaration.

      Red Label is enjoyable for me. It's a guilty pleasure of mine. I get a kick out of it. I think the Talisker has been a bigger component of this blend in recent years.

      Yep, I would agree Double Black and Blue, two no age statement blends in the Johnnie Walker stable are not value for money plays. I would probably add Gold Label too, particularly if it moves to a no-age-statement format.

      Thanks for commenting!



  5. FWIW, an "Islay" whiskey originates from a distillery on the isle of Islay - only. This classification excludes Talisker, which is produced on a different island, the isle of Skye. Talisker, and others like it (Highland Park, Arran) are classified with other non-Islay island-sourced malts as having Highland origin. JK

  6. Thank you for this review. When you mentioned the Pepsi challenge, I thought OH NO! is he mixing his scotch with Pepsi. That use to be and still is a trend, if you can call it that in some countries. I never bought Johnnie Walker because to me its a very commercial brand found everywhere you go including strict Islamic countries. But now reading what you have to say about Johnnie Black I might try it. But I prefer to keep my dollars for Talisker or Laphroaig.

    1. Sometime in your travels, in a bar, have a dram of Johnnie Walker Black Label. It may surprise you.


    2. Actually Laurent, you living in Ontario should try to pick up one bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label. It is being discontinued and I continue to shake my head at how great it is.

  7. Hi Jason,

    Nice review, and I agree with your opinion. I am a fan of Ardbeg and Laphroaig, but also a fan of Black Label. And when I first read the "more intense and smokier flavour" of DB, I imagined something close to Islay Malts (maybe that was my mistake) or even Talisker 10. Well, it is good, but do not worth the extra money comparing to Black Label 12. I was a really fan of Johnnie Walker, but more I discover the World of Whisky, more I feel that Johnnie Walker Whisky (except Green Label which already died in some countries) is only about Marketing Power. What do you think?



    1. I am still a big fan of Johnnie Walker Black Label. I just never seem to tire of it. A great stand-by when I dont know what else to have. In fact, Black Label is in my opinion the best blended scothch whiskies on the market.

      Other than Green and Black labels, I think the Johnnie Walker are over priced. Particularly the Gold and Blue Lables.

    2. Indeed, I forgot to mention the Black Label which is fantastic too ;)



  8. Jason, I finally had the chance to try the JW-DB, and I think the release reflects several things. It's a bit of a brute in terms of more heavily-charred wood. It also have more peated elements too. I picked up a couple fairly strong flavor element not mentioned in your review: lemon/melon and briny/salty. For me, there's a real lash of Clynelish-like fruit and seawater in the Double Black; I liked a fair bit, much more than the JW-B. JK

    1. Certainly, the consumer who likes peated/smoke malts (ie. from Islay) will enjoy Double Black over the standard 12 yr bottling.

      For me, I am not a huge peat and smoke fan, as you know. I like it when I am in the mood and can appreciate those flavors, but deep down, I like a caramel, cinnamon, honey flavor profile. So, the 12 beats out DB.

      Double Black is a good product, but the consumer considering purchasing must first decide if they like Islays. If they don't, then it is not likely they would enjoy this blend.

  9. Jason, Thanks for your reply. I wonder about the character and source of the intensity of the Double Black. For me, it seems to reflect less than the JWB of the typical Islay traits, and more of the style and intensities seen in Diageo's coastal Highland malts. I'm thinking of saltiness without medicinal aspects, and deep fresh fruit without the dried fruit of sherry cask application. I admit to having really have no info regarding the sources for production, I'm going on taste and aroma only. As I work through the two bottles side by side for a few weeks, it's coming into focus a bit more all the time.

  10. Jason,

    Thanks for your reviews. I find that the more I read the more our tasts are aligned. (which will allow me more informed decisions at the store)...

    I felt the same way about double black. I feel it would suffice if I'm sitting around a campfire on a damp night with a cool north wind blowing the smoke in my face. So I will keep one bottle around for those rare occurences.

    Like you I also enjoy green label much better than blue. In fact my heart sank when I heard they were stopping production on it. As such I'm a bit offended that Diageo is introducing double black at the expense of a masterpiece like Green label.

    keep up the good work. I will try and figure out how to subscribe.


    1. Hello Bill,

      I am always pleased to learn from readers that my reviews resonate with them.

      As for Double Black, as I mentioned in the review, it is better than Black Bottle or White Horse, but not proportionate to the increased price you pay.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  11. Jason, My wife and spent the better part of the day cruising both Wine Searcher and LA's west side, in part looking for Black Bottle at 1/3 price of JW Double Black. Best prices found: JW DB at $35, Black Bottle (no age statement version) at $25. Black Bottle is a nice warmup to something interesting, but it's not in shouting range interest-wise to even JWB or JWDB. Let us know where you found the BB for $12 US and we'll have to talk further. JK

    1. Black Bottle can be had at crazy prices in New Hampshire and Chicago. On sale $12 but regular price is $19. I also saw it in Maine for $19.

      Online is another matter. I find prices are invariably higher than brick and mortar retailers.

  12. Jason, Thanks for the Black Bottle price confirmation. At $12, Black Bottle is a no-brainer steal, that is if one likes it - and I do. Very jealous. Local prices in greater LA for it are strictly $25 and up on the shelf in specialty shops only at that. One huge retailer lists it at $23, but they don't actually have it. There are fine alternatives to the BB at $25, but not at $12. JK

  13. Hey Jason,

    It's me - the Tambowie guy again! :D

    I'm getting Double Black @ $40/1L, while Black @ $33/1L. What's your recommendation now?

    1. I prefer Black Label myself. It is a cinnamon toast, honey, lemon zest flavor profile that I prefer over heavier smoke and peat that is exhibited by Double Black. But, if your tastes are the opposite then reach for Double Black.

      Good prices by the way!

    2. Thanks Jason. I'm confused again bcoz I also have the option of Glenlivet 12 @ $37/1L. And, I'm buying it primarily for my Dad who loves JW Black. I was wondering if he would like Glenlivet 12 more thn JW Black. I personally dont think so! What's ur opinion?

    3. He will probably prefer Johnnie Walker Black rather than Glenlivet 12. While the former is a blended scotch aged 12 years, it still tastes better than the latter. No doubt about it. Get him Johnnie Black. He'll be happy!

    4. Thank you very much, Jason! I got 4 bottles of JW that's gonna last for a while.

      Also after reading your review of Black Bottle, I was very much tempted to buy one. But, I was surprised to see that BB costs $2 more than Black Grouse(@ my store). Now, that is a dilemma, although I'm inclined towards Black Grouse (I haven't tried any of them). What's ur opinion?

    5. Go with Black Bottle.

      Where do you live that you get such great prices?

    6. Thanks Jason. I live in Arizona..liquor is pretty cheap here. However, some of the prices I told u were from Duty Free @ Delhi Airport.

  14. Good Reviews Jason the Pepsi challenge section has raised a question for me though regarding your view on HP 12 vs 18.

    I have never tried HP 18 mainly because of the cost seeing as i am just starting out on my malt journey with a limited budget so I ventured to by the HP 15 thinking like you said "...It stood on the shoulders of the 12" but in my opinion it didn't. it to me was a different whiskey altogether very dry finish which i heard is a result of the oak cask instead of the sherry cask. Have you tried the 15 and if so in your opinion does it also stand on the Shoulders of the 12


  15. Correction Not that is wasnt matured in sherry casks but sherry casks made from a different wood

    1. Not sure what you are saying. Are you saying some of the malt or grain whiskies were aged in sherry casks?

  16. Jason my apologies you can disregard my questions you answered them in you HP 15 YO review which i found subsequent to asking the question

    great reviews i am starting from the begining of your archived blogs


  17. $69 is way too expensive! Even Glenlivet 18 yr costs $57/750ml in my Anyway, the question I wanted to ask is: what if JWDB costs only $5 more thn JWBL? ($43/1L) In tht case, is it worth the extra $5 over JWBL?

    1. For me, I prefer Black Label to Double Black. But that is just me.

      As I mentioned in the review, Double Black and Black Label are very different. The former is smoke and peat heavy while the latter is cinnamon/honey/toffee with smoke and peat.

      So, it all depends on your preferred flavor profile. $5 more than Black Label is a very reasonable price differential.

  18. Why did they choose to call it Double Black?....there are plenty of colors left. Couldn't they have just had it be Purple label or something?

  19. Pointto, I suspect "Double Black" was chosen as a name in an effort to capitalize on the enormous brand value of "Black Label." But, given the two very divergent flavor profiles, it could have been called anything else including "Purple Label." Hell, if they thought of it, they could have had the artist formerly known as Prince endorse it.

  20. After skimming over the comments & digesting the article, it seems much too clear that our love of traditional tastes trumps the newly concocted brand of Double Black. While we are proud & generous to serve our guests a few ounces of Double Black, we are acutely aware that the absence of age indicates it is costlier to the business to enjoy traditional Johnnie Walker Black. The price of scotch seem to be juggled with marketing & the marketing demonstrates an idea of gibberish inconsistent with good faith. As pointed out, JWB is the standard which sets the consistent mark of 12 year old excellence. Double Black, while very distinctive & pleasurable, fails to impress us without age validation. We feel somewhat cheated with the price gouge. Oh well, happy new year least we can still enjoy JWB & DB!

  21. This was much my impression of JWDB. Very different to JWBL, more expensive, not as good, and too overpoweringly smoky.

  22. Jason,
    I´m from Argentina, and I really enjoy your reviews. I´m new to scotch, but love complex drinks and all the wonderful experiences they provide. I´m trying to learn how to taste scotch and make my own interpretation, so I´m really grateful for finding your blog, it´s great help and very clearly explained.
    I´m a big fan of Lapsang Souchong tea, I believe is one of the greatest drinks I´ve ever tasted. So do you think I will enjoy JW Double Black very much?
    Thanks for your wonderful reviews!
    Best regards,


    1. A whisky that tastes like Lapsang Souchong Tea? That's a tough one. It is certainly not Double Black. Where I think you will taste such tea flavors is in Talisker 10, Laphroaig 16 and for a cheaper option try Islay Mist 7 years.

      Thanks for the kind words about the blog, and welcome!

    2. Thanks for your answer! I´ll try any of those you mentioned. ;)
      Have a wonderful holiday season!

  23. Thanks for the review. I got a bottle of this one for last Christmas and pretty much agree with it. Even though I'm not a seasoned enthusiast and am substantially unfamiliar with the lingo, I found it, although basically good, and inferior variation of Black Label, smokier (a whisky taste I don't particularly appreciate) but lacking Black's "mellow" or "sweetish" (for lack of better words) taste.

  24. I know this post is really old but I wanted to comment at I got my first bottle of double black tonight. I haven't tried it yet but I will soon. I have had green JW before and I loved it. I was looking for that tonight but heard it was discontinued. Do you think they will bring it back at all? Do you think double black is better then the green?

    1. Green Label is definitely discontinued in North America. I thought they had stopped making it entirely but then read that it was still available in certain Asian markets like South Korea and Japan.

      I emailed Diageo, but received no response.

      I think Green Label is definitely better than Double Black. But, bear in mind that these two bottling exhibit very different styles. Double Black emphasizes peat and smoke (an homage to Islay) while Green Label is light, honeyed, malty with notes of toffee and treacle.

      Double Black is enjoyable. I dont like the price, but it still is a nice dram. Enjoy my friend!

  25. As a young whisky drinker, I'm not too used to JWB and maybe that's why i would take the Double Black anytime over the Black.
    I agree the Black Label flavor balance is incredible, but i prefer the far most smoky double black. It's a great whisky for casual drinking.

    Also, looks like the prices is going down, as here in Israel it is priced (40$) cheaper than the Bowmore 12 and Talisker 10. (both around 60$)

    Speaking of Johnnie Walker stuff, did you happen to taste one of the Explorer Club collection ? I think it's mainly available in airports duties free.

    They're somewhat intriguing.
    they're smooth and light, totally inoffensive and very accessible to the non-connoisseur . But yet, they surprise you by delivering some taste. Very simple tastes, no single malt aged and complex tastes, but yeah tasty tastes.