By Kurt Maitland
This recent addition to Diageo’s Johnnie Walker line began as a travel retail-only release, and in some ways it takes the slot of the no longer in production and sorely missed, Johnnie Walker Green. So many have asked if this expression take the place of their old favorite, as well as what is “Black, amplified anyway?”
Color: Old gold.
Nose: Light but consistent smell of peat smoke, restrained by its marriage to grain with hints of fruit and traces of its Diageo labelmates such as Caol Ila and Lagavulin.
Taste: Slightly sweeter than you would expect at the beginning, turning to a fruity vanilla sweetness which is followed by a pepper smoky finish that has a long fade away. The mouthfeel is smooth, slightly oily with an drier finish.
Finish: Late sting on this one. The impact of the smoke and deep char really shows its colors on the back end.
Smokier and richer in flavor than its older brother, but still bottled at 40% abv, this no age statement (NAS) release has the heart of the standard Johnnie Walker Black, but that heart has been fortified with reinforcements from Islay and the Isle of Skye.
I’ve been of the opinion that part of the reason Johnnie Walker Green is no longer with us, as a regular expression anyway, is that Diageo didn’t have enough of Caol Ila, Talisker and Lagavulin to continue to produce Green and new expressions such as this in mass quantities. Unlike Johnnie Walker Green, which is 100% malt, the Double Black is a blend of malt and grain.
This release gets its smokiness from the increased use of Diageo’s smokier whiskies and the use of deeply charred barrels. But Double Black it isn’t all smoke. The grain whiskies that are part of this blend allows sweetness to come through the smoke. Actually, this release wouldn’t be a bad way to introduce a new scotch drinker to a smoky expression.
Johnnie Walker Double Black is priced around $40 to $42 dollars US for a 750 ML bottle, which has provoked some ire among fans as this NAS release is priced higher than its older brother. In Europe, the whisky retails for £32 in the UK and right around the same mark in euros over on the Continent.