We first reviewed Johnnie Walker Black about 1 million years ago. Well, o.k., it was in the late 1990s, and the conditons were less than optimal—we were at a bender of a whisky tasting. In 2008, our older and wiser palates gave it Black a much closer look, and boy were we impressed. Considering the price a fifth of Johnie Black goes for ($28-$32), we thought the quality deemed it worthy of a perfect five star rating. Really, it is a blend that provides extraordinary bang for the buck.
We mention all this history because we were quite surprised some months back when we received a sample of Johnnie Walker Black and a new iteration—Johnnie Walker Double Black. “What?” we thought. “Are they trying to out-do classic Black?”
Perhaps—Double Black (80 proof) sells for about $10 more per bottle. It is pitched as the “bold, brash relative” of standard Black. Clearly, it is a different animal. Where as Black Label is loaded with delicate flavors but a sure whisky spine, Double Black is much peatier and has a distinct burnt/char note. It is less floral but a bit fruitier. Those who find Black label a bit too gentle may well enjoy this; we, though, found it a bit less sophisticated. Of course, we would not turn down a glass offered, and the sample bottle we received is nearly empty. (Rating ****1/4)