If you like the classic Black Label, then you’re going to love its latest iteration that takes the classic blend and adds extra sherry magic. It’s Johnnie Walker Black Label Sherry Cask.
Whisky lovers don’t agree on much, you should see the arguments that rage on whisky social media over chill filtering or red wine cask finishes, but I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t appreciate Johnnie Walker Black Label. When writer and Eldorado tonic wine pusher Charlie MacLean received an MBE last year, he didn’t celebrate with something rare from Macallan. Instead, he chose Black Label.
The history of Johnnie Walker Black Label
The brand has a long history. It dates back to the late 19th century when John Walker & Sons of Kilmarnock had three blends in ascending order of age and price: Old Highland, Special Old Highland, and Extra Special Old Highland. These had white, red, and black labels respectively, and were known by their colour. Then in 1906, according to Nick Morgan’s book A Long Stride, the three blends were relaunched as White Label, a five year old, Red Label, a nine year old, and Black Label, a 12 year old.
While Red Label would lose its age statement and White Label disappear altogether, Black Label is still a 12 year old blend – though it did go through a phase without an age statement. Its prestige status was trumped with the launch of the super swanky Blue Label in the late 1980s, but Black Label has never lost its cache.
The Four Corners of Scotland
Across the world, a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label is a recognised currency and symbol of excellence. The classic Black Label is a blend majoring on Diageo’s Four Corners of Scotland distilleries Clynelish in the Highlands, Cardhu on Speyside, malt from Glenknichie and grain from Cameronbridge with a little smoke from Caol Ila. It was great fun back in 2019 spending some time with master blender Jim Beveridge learning what each principle distillery brought to the blend at the launch of Johnnie Walker’s Origin series.
Johnnie Walker Black Label Sherry finish is the same blend as the 12 year old but with an undisclosed finishing period in sherry casks. Johnnie Walker master blender Emma Walker explained: “This is a whisky inspired by the bold and dynamic layers of flavour that Johnnie Walker Black Label is famed for. We have taken that unmistakable character and exceptional depth of flavour of Black Label and fired it with the mellow sweet smoothness of a sherry finish so that the flavours dance with citrus; it is a taste collision of smooth and sherry – and one that I’m extremely proud to add to the collection.”
I wish I had the standard bottle to try it alongside but from memory all the classic Black Label flavours are there but with added burnt caramel, dates, dark chocolate, and molasses. I’ve put a full tasting note below. It’s a lovely dram, if not one that quite hits the heights of the extraordinary Celebratory Blend. While it tastes great neat, or with ice, it’s really going to come into its own in an Old Fashioned, sweetened with a teaspoon of PX sherry and a dash of orange bitters to bring out the orange peel note.
Johnnie Walker Black Label Sherry Finish is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.
Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: There’s fruitcake, dates and dried apricot with spices including ginger, cinnamon, and with a big sweet flavours of rum, toffee and dark chocolate,
Palate: Pepper, spicy, little bit of chilli, lively and then lots of sweetness from dried fruit, toffee and burnt caramel. Give it time and you’ll find fresh orchard fruits and almonds.
Finish: Vanilla, creamy, lingering sweetness and a hint of smoke.