leather

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Reviewed by: Ted

Double Black Whisky Waffle

Picture the scene: we are standing in the secret headquarters of Johnnie Walker, built cunningly into a mighty tor in the middle of a lonely Scottish loch. A meeting is being held between the head of whisky R&D (Codename: W) and his underlings…

W: “Gentlemen, I have created a new mid-range (but very reasonably priced) whisky. But what to call it?”

Underling: “Well sir, if it’s mid-range then it must be above the Black. If people associate the name Black as being a notch up, a bit more classy, that sort of thing, then surely they’ll think that ‘Double Black’ means twice the class?”

W: “Genius! Give that man a dram and a slice of haggis!”

Double Black extra Ted Whisky Waffle

Amazingly, Johnnie Walker has managed to deliver just that. Compared to the decidedly woeful Red, and the close-but-not-quite Black, the Double Black really is twice the drink. The boys in the back have managed to iron out the kinks that plagued the previous two iterations and produce a far more balanced and exciting drink.

The element that is really allowed to shine in the Double Black is peat smoke. Johnnie Walker likes to talk about how their whiskies have a smoky nature, but it is here that they open the door and let it out to play. Even the bottle suggests it, being coloured a very dark smoky blue-grey.

Gone are the harsher unbalanced notes from the Red and the Black. Instead the nose gently presents hints of smouldering charcoal, cigars and leather, over rich stewed plums and strawberries with spicy honey. The mouth brings an initial hit of lightly charred oak followed by nicely balanced sweetness and spice. The overall feel is pleasantly smooth and manages to introduce points of interest without capturing any unwanted notes.

While the Red and the Black are only really good for mixers, the Double Black is the first rung on the Johnnie Walker ladder worth enjoying neat. Thanks to the well balanced flavours and that sexy hit of smoke, combined with the very reasonable price tag, the Johnnie Walker Double Black has it in spades, and is a seriously good choice for anyone contemplating a blend.

★★★

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Laphroaig 10 whisky waffle

Peat. One of the biggest, strongest and most divisive flavours found within a dram of whisky. The smoky, medicinal notes send some people running to the hills with just the merest of whiffs. But to others, there are no better flavours in the entire world of whisky. These flavours are most strongly associated with one place: Islay.

The early Ileach distillers did not set out with the intention of creating such iconically flavoured whisky. The use of peat to smoke the barley was born out of necessity rather than creativity. Islay is as remote as it is boggy, and getting coal to the island on a train was simply not an option. So the locals turned to a resource they had in abundance: peat. It kept them warm in their houses against the wild force of the Atlantic Ocean, so burning anything else in their kilns was never a consideration.

The most famous example of peated whisky is made by the Laphroaig Distillery. As far as standard releases go, nothing is on the same extreme level in terms of the peaty intensity of its flavour.

In their 10 Year Old expression it is immediately noticeable – before it has even come close to your nose. Smoke. Ash. Medicinal iodine notes, all there smouldering together. This is the scent of a bonfire at the beach.

The palate is legendarily akin to licking a burnt log. Maritime notes are present; briny, seaweed flavours ebbing through gently. Other, more obscure elements are there too, such as leather and sawdust. The bourbon cask imparts only small amounts of vanilla; and what comes through is particularly dry and slightly bitter.

The finish is disappointingly short and contains several soapy, chalky notes, before the smoke gently comes rolling back, leaving a warm, lingering ash-like flavour.

While it is not the best Islay, or even Laphroaig has to offer, there is no doubt this dram showcases some amazing peaty flavours. It is, however, something of a one card trick, let down by the flavours that accompany the smoke. This does not disappoint me too much. If this is merely the entry level, how good must their other expressions be?

★★★