The name Johnnie Walker is synonymous with whisky, and every whisky connoisseur, no matter which part of the world they are from, has heard of; treasured; tried; loved this brand of Scotch whisky
It is one of the world’s bestselling blended scotch whisky brands, and is sold in almost every country, but not many know of Johnnie Walker’s history and the many different and diverse expressions that form a part of the brand’s inventory.
Founder John Walker began his journey with a grocery store in 1820, dealing in luxury goods such as wine, brandy, whisky and other grocery items which he soon abandoned to deal exclusively in whiskies. John was blending whiskies based on customer specifications but could not blend single malt and grain whiskies together since it was prohibited by the law.
After the dismissal of prohibitions on the blending of malt and grain whiskies were lifted with the passing of the Spirits Act of 1860, Alec Walker and Alexander Walker II put in a great deal of effort to produce a proprietary blend that would have a wider commercial viability.
By 1909, the company had welcomed George Walker, Alexander Walker II’s brother, who supported him in the business. Two more expressions were added to the Johnnie Walker inventory with the Special Old Highland (9 years old), and the Extra Special Old Highland (11 years old).
By this time, the company had begun to acknowledge the fact that consumers preferred to refer to their whiskies by the colour of the label on the bottle, and not the names on the label itself. The Old Highland Whisky, Special Old Highland Whisky, and the Extra Special Old Highland Whisky were named White Label, Red Label and Black Label respectively.
As the company grew, so did their inventory of products with some reshuffling and changes being introduced when deemed necessary. These changes saw the discontinuation of the White Label, earlier known as the Old Highland Whisky during World War I, and the Red Label being re-introduced as a no-age-statement blend.
More expressions have been introduced over the years such as the limited edition Johnnie Walker Swing, discontinued Green Label, Gold Label Reserve, and their most premium expression yet, the Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
Let us discover the many expressions that form a part of the Johnnie Walker portfolio. These expressions are placed in a linear form, and are part of a hierarchy that goes on from the standard Red Label, to the most premium Blue Label.
Johnnie Walker Red Label
The standard expression from Johnnie Walker, it was earlier known as the Special Old Highland and carried an age-statement of 9 years until it was reintroduced as a no-age-statement blend.
Red Label has consistently been one of the best-selling Johnnie Walker blends, and is created by blending together light whiskies from the East Coast, with peaty whiskies from the West Coast.
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Another impressive Johnnie Walker blend that is popular for its smoothness, the Black Label carries an age-statement of 12 years. It was one of the three initial blends that formed a part of the Johnnie Walker inventory way back in 1909.
It is a blend of source whiskies gathered from the four corners of Scotland, and mixes the characteristics of East Coast whiskies with that of West Coast whiskies to produce an intense, flavourful blend that is high on smokiness.
Johnnie Walker Double Black
A favourite among whisky drinkers who prefer to have a strong peat flavour, the Johnnie Walker Double Black was introduced in 2011 to much acclaim. It is produced by using the Johnnie Walker Black Label as a base, adding Islay and West Coast whiskies to produce a distinctive smokiness.
The blend is then finished in heavily charred Oak barrels to produce a blend that is, what the Johnnie Walker calls, ‘powerful, full-bodied and smoky.’ It was produced by Master Blender Jim Beveridge as a darker interpretation of the Black Label.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
Initially released at an age-statement of 18 years as The Centenary Blend, the Gold Label was reintroduced as a no-age-statement bottling, and renamed the Gold Label Reserve in 2013.
The Gold Label Reserve is a blend of Speyside and Highland single malts, with some amount of West Coast whiskies, and was also created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge.
Johnnie Walker 18-Year-Old Label
With an age-statement of 18 years, it is the oldest expression from the Johnnie Walker core range, and has been created by blending whiskies set aside by previous Master Blenders for the purpose of creating ‘private blends’.
Coveted, and a rare blend which also happens to be the second most valuable Johnnie Walker from the core range, it was earlier known as the Platinum Label but has since been rebranded as the Johnnie Walker 18-Year-Old.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
The most premium, and expensive expression from the house of Johnnie Walker, the Blue Label is a no-age-statement blend. Created by blending together some of the rarest, and most astutely put together whiskies.
The Johnnie Walker Blue Label is produced as an attempt to recreate the magic some of the oldest whiskies that were initially released under the Johnnie Walker brand name. The Blue Label is said to be a tribute to Alexander ‘Alec’ Walker’s Old Highland Whisky that he created in 1867, and is the crown jewel of the Johnnie Walker inventory.