J&B Rare Blended Scotch Whiskey Review

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By Richard Thomas

Rating:D-

J&B Rare Scotch

J&B Rare Scotch (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the name, there is nothing rare about J&B Rare whatsoever. This is the entry-level scotch of one of the most mass market labels around, a fact exemplified by J&B billing itself as “The World’s Party Whisky.” You can find the green glass bottle, yellow labeling and red print of J&B just about anywhere that alcohol is legal, and it’s been the drink of choice for everyone from Truman Capote to John Wayne Gacy.

My own J&B experience stems from John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing. The protagonist, the chopper pilot MacCready played by a young, hirsute Kurt Russell, must have a pallet of J&B stashed at that Antarctic research station, because he opens the movie by pouring some into and destroying his irritating chess computer. Station staff are seen taking pulls off a bottle of J&B periodically right up to the last scene in the movie. It’s one of my favorite films, and in an insidious example of product placement programming children, I developed a predisposition for J&B that flowered in my college days… or at least it did until I discovered better scotches in the same class, such as Grant’s and Ballantine’s. It’s been several years since I touched the stuff (excepting the overrated J&B 15 Year Old), but I decided to return to humble J&B Rare for this publication.

The Scotch
On the nose, J&B has a sweetly nutty character, with hints of peat smoke and wood. That character carries over onto the palate, where it has a sickly sweet and grainy taste. This syrupy style is quite a surprise, since the scotch is a very pale gold in the glass, and almost transparent.

J&B Rare is reportedly a blend of 42 different whiskeys, although I don’t see how drawing from more than three dozen different sources is something to boast of. In this case, the result is a scotch that in terms of scent and taste is lacking in character. It’s a mellow scotch, but one without complexity or subtlety. This only changes with the finish, which starts out positively cold, but ends with a little bite. I didn’t care for that, but it was at least different.

The Price
This is cheap stuff, but the price tag isn’t light enough to reflect the cheapness of the contents. Standard bottles often go for less than $20, and 1-liter bottles are available for around $25. I often see it in Europe for 10 or 11 euros. Even so, there are much better mass market scotches out there for the same price.

13 comments

  1. I agree that this is a very plain whiskey.I don’t know why anyone would buy a scotch to mix. I’d buy a decent amber rum instead. J & B is not for real scotch drinkers. Its for kids who want to pretend.

  2. I just tried J&B again tonight. I can get White Horse for cheaper, and it tastes better. I just bought a little 355ml, as hadn’t had it for a couple of years. After I finish it, I’m sticking with the Horse. Doesn’t taste like a blend of that many whiskies, to be honest. Yeah, it’s less smoky than Walker, but I’m on a budget.

  3. I generally respect the opinion of others, but not when the state their opinion as fact.
    Scotch whisky is like any other product that has many brands to offer and is left entirely to the individual pallet.
    J&B Rare Scotch whisky has a unique flavour consisting of a blend of 42 carefully chosen malts and grain whiskies.
    Justerini and Brooks are predominately a wine makers who decided to make a Scotch whisky along the same lines as blending their wines. This is evident when tasting the product.
    It is lighter in colour owing to the lack of added burned caramel which most whiskies tent to overdo in the hope of attracting those who believe that darker is better. Burnt caramel adds nothing but colour and not flavour to whisky.
    For decades, the American market was dominated by two light coloured whiskies in the same way that coke has two major rivals, each fighting to be at the top.
    All Asian and Spanish speaking countries have J&B as a predominant feature in most bars.
    It has always been amongst the top five selling Scotch whiskies listed even though it is owned and distributed by the same company as the world’s number one.
    It gets very little exposure by comparison to others and yet still keeps itself to the forefront by reputation and word of mouth. I am certain if it were an independent brand and shared the same budget as some of its competitors, it would stand out far in front of the rest.
    To say this is a whisky “for kids who want to pretend” makes me feel that you are a kid yourself who know nothing about this fine brand or anything of its history.
    Regards
    James.
    Founder of the J&B Club.

    • I am enjoying a tumbler of J&B right now. Is it the best scotch blend…no. It’s not terrible though. For the price, it’s pretty good. In addition, J&B is special for me because it’s ubiquitous in every Giallo I have ever watched.

    • There is that. J&B was a fixture in many films of the 1970s and early 1980s, but Giallo in particular.

    • Charles Mackarness

      I just recieved a bottle I have dated as before 1976 by the tax stamp. Slightly evaporated, came in a green gift box which I opened.

      The bottle remains unopened at this moment.

      Thoughts?

    • Charles,
      Whiskey doesn’t age in the bottle, so it isn’t getting any better, and a mass market brand such as J&B isn’t going to appreciate in value very much. Just drink it.

    • I think whisky actually does age in the bottle, if bottle has been opened, right?

    • It can degrade due to contact with sunlight and the open air, but “aging” usually means “maturing” when it comes to liquor, and it doesn’t do that. Red wine, for example, is said to “bottle age” because it continues to mature as its tannins break down, not because of the chance it might turn to vinegar. I hope that clears up the terminology.

      We did a feature on the subject of how long whiskey lasts, and what can be done to preserve it: http://whiskeyreviewer.com/2016/05/how-long-will-my-whiskey-last-051316/

  4. Well said James.. I have been enjoying j & b scotch for 50 years and enjoyed every bottle.

    • Agree. I enjoy my single malt as much as the next man, but I appreciate J&B for what it is: an easy, uncomplicated whisky, it’s…. a fun taste.

  5. Scotch and soda fits the bill when I’m in the mood for a cocktail. I wouldnt waste a good single malt so I’ve tried a few of the more ubiquitous blends. I did not like JW Red, Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse or Chivas. J&B on the other hand is very pleasant and Dewars will do as well. That said, Ive never tried them neat. Ive got a bottle of Old Pulteny for that. When Ive finished my bottle of J&B Im going to try Black Bottle.

  6. I am just drinking J&B, I have already tried it some times ago and I must say I like it very much in dispite what others here stated. For me personally, J&B is far better and enjoyable taste than Balantines and Johnnie Walker Red Label. I find J&B very simple and easy going Scotch whisky. Although I do not understand how come it is produced in London!!!?? (That’s what etiquette on the bottle says)

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