Over the years, the house of Johnnie Walker has developed an impressive list of blends that are both new age milestones, and deeply rooted extensions of their history and traditions.
The perfect representatives of both these qualities are the Johnnie Walker Black Label, and the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, the former being one of their oldest blends, and the latter, one of their newest introductions, forming a pantheon of greatness.
Both blends are fairly premium in their own right, although the Gold Label Reserve is placed much higher in terms of quality and pricing, although the Black Label blend is one of the world’s most popular blended Scotch whiskies.
Let us explore the other minor and major differences between the Johnnie Walker Black Label and the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve to better understand what really sets them apart, and which one is the superior blend.
The Johnnie Walker Black Label
Historically, and commercially, it is one of the most enduring and crowd favourite Johnnie Walker blends, the Black Label was developed by Alexander ‘Alec’ Walker, founder John Walker’s enterprising son.
It was earlier referred to as the Extra Special Old Highland Whisky, and was rebranded as the Black Label in 1909. It’s typical peaty characteristics make it a very popular expression in many markets all over the world.
The Black Label carries an age-statement of 12 years, and is created by blending together whiskies from four different regions of Scotland. It is held in such high regard, that a new blend, the Johnnie Walker Double Black was commissioned and released in 2011, which uses the Black Label as a blueprint source whisky, adding more peaty whiskies and finishing it in heavily charred oak barrels.
The Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
Created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge, who is held in high esteem not only inside the Johnnie Walker circles, but the world of whisky itself. His meticulous attention to detail allows him to oversee the blending of every Johnnie Walker blend, and he also oversaw the blending of the special edition Jubilee bottle for Queen Elizabeth II.
The Gold Label Reserve thus carries a personal touch from Jim Beveridge himself, and has been called the Celebration Blend, drawing inspiration from the 18-Year-Old Gold Label which was titled the Centenary Blend.
Introduced as a replacement to the Gold Label, the Gold Label Reserve is a no-age-statement blend built around Clynelish single malt, and is a slightly more premium blend as compared to the Black Label.
The tasting notes carried by the Johnnie Walker Black Label are;
Hints of Vanilla with a strong, richer essence of tropical fruits.
Creamy, with notes of toffee, traces of smoky Oak and dry spice.
A typical long finish of a Johnnie Walker whisky with hints of smoky flavor and fruity essence.
The tasting notes carried by the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve are;
Delicate, with hints of smokiness and sweet fruits.
Rich honey sweetness, velvety texture with a distinct smokiness.
Long, and warming finish with peaty aftertaste.
The Black Label and Gold Label Reserve are very different blends from Johnnie Walker, and although they retain some common characteristics that are typically ‘Johnnie Walker’, such as traces of smokiness and a rich palate although a comparison between the two is moot.
While the Black Label is certainly the more popular blend with years of history working in its favour, the Gold Label Reserve is a relatively new blend belonging to the slightly more premium price segment, and may not have developed a loyal support base yet.
In our opinion, the Johnnie Walker Black Label is the safer, and no-nonsense choice, although if you are feeling adventurous and are in the mood for splurging, trying the Gold Label Reserve would not be such a bad idea after all.