Review: Johnnie Walker Complete Lineup (2010)

Review: Johnnie Walker Complete Lineup (2010)

Here’s a great gift idea for Father’s Day: One each of the five expressions that the whisky legends at Johnnie Walker. You don’t actually have to buy him five full bottles (what dad is worth that kind of expense?). Instead, JW has a nice little set of 200ml bottles of four of the five expressions (all but Green Label) available for just 100 bucks. Or, if you really want to splurge, you can have a full 750ml bottle of Blue Label etched with the message of your choice for $225.

We took the opportunity to run through the full Johnnie Walker lineup and offer thoughts on all five expressions. Prices are for full 750ml bottles.

Johnnie Walker Red Label is the entry-level Johnnie, said to be the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky. Red Label carries no age statement, and it tastes young and a bit raw. Maybe that’s why people like it. Lightly peaty, it’s got a moderate burn that tends to overpower some pleasant sweetness — honey notes and a little floweriness. It’s a fine blended whisky for the price but nothing too memorable. 80 proof. B- / $23 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

Johnnie Walker Black Label is an easy step up, making it a popular call brand for sipping neat. Aged 12 years, it’s got virtually none of the heat that Red Label has, instead offering a distinctly sweet, fruity, and easygoing body with just a touch of peat laced throughout. Still an exceptional value and worth having a bottle for when you have company. Every Scotch drinker will drink Black Label, guaranteed. 80 proof. (You can read about my Black Label blending experiment here.) B+ / $34 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

Johnnie Walker Green Label is an anomaly in the JW portfolio, which is why it’s not part of the four-bottle sample kits you’ll find online. Why? Green Label isn’t a blended Scotch, it’s a vatted malt or “blended malt,” which means it uses only single malt Scotches in the mix. No (cheap) grain whiskey. I reviewed Green Label in depth here, but it’s worth revisiting. Aged 15 years, this malt is far more intense than Red and Black Label, thicker with peat smoke and layered with honey character. A distinct Islay brininess sneaks through. Worth a look but it’s out of character for Walker. 86 proof. B+ / $43 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

Johnnie Walker Gold Label, “The Centenary Blend,” is aged 18 years and has a lot of the charms of Black Label, just at a higher price. Often served chilled at tastings for reasons I do not understand, it’s only been on the market since the 1990s; before then it had been reserved as a product for internal use since it was first mcreated in the 1920s for the 100th anniversary of the company. The body is light for an 18-year-old, and said body has an almost oily texture. The characteristic light JW smoke fades away almost immediately leaving behind a woody spirit with less honeyed sweetness than its kid brothers. More complicated and drier than Black Label. The price upgrade is debatable. 80 proof. B+ / $85 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

Johnnie Walker Blue Label (2010) is the top of the Johnnie Walker line, a legendarily expensive whisky that runs $30 a shot at most bars. Blended from nine single malts, some of which even I’ve never heard of (Glen Albyn? Cambus?). No age statement, however. Heresy or not, Blue Label has always seemed a little rough around the edges to me, a rustic whisky with some charms that are unfortunately buried in smoke and wood. Less fruity and not very sweet at all, it’s more of a malty, heather-infused whisky with a thick, burly palate to it. Perfectly drinkable, but not the end-all-be-all it wants to be. B+ / $220  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

Johnnie Walker Blue Label (2010)




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. dan on June 8, 2010 at 8:01 am

    If anyone lives in the San Gabriel Valley (Los Angeles Suburb) there is a chinese supermarket (Hawaii Supermarket on the corner for Valley & Del Mar) that carries Johnnie Walker (750ml) at a really good price:

    JW Black – $18.99
    JW Gold – $49.99
    JW Blue – $119.99

    • Anonymous on April 27, 2018 at 7:26 pm

      Maybe fakes?

  2. Ryan on June 8, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Unfortunately Grandpa is an alcoholic. Although the greeting card would be fun!

    “Happy Father’s day Grand Dad! Have a fall off the wagon on me. Love, Grandson. P.S. I’ll never tell.”

  3. JB on June 10, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Ryan…that’s the funniest comment I’ve seen in a while.

  4. Yochanan on December 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Nice, honest view there on Blue label. People who don’t know scotch look at it’s hefty price, classy (read: further increased price!) and over-done packaging and surmise that it is the perfect scotch. Blue label is silky smooth, but is otherwise not all too interesting. And frankly, that’s not worth the $200 or so price tag. There are libraries of superior single malts over half the price of JW Blue. I’d prefer many blends to this as well.

  5. Mark on January 30, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Great review. Been a fan of most of the J.W. bottles above. Now I need to try the Blue label. Appreciate it and thanks.

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