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Johnnie Walker Red Label vs Black Label: Which is Better?

Discover the differences between Johnnie Walker Red Label vs Black Label in this in-depth comparison and decide which is better for You!

Johnnie Walker Red Label

  • Nose: Caramel, citrus, smoke, alcohol
  • Palate: Black pepper, oak, caramel, alcohol
  • Finish: Long, warm, black pepper
  • Alcohol content: 80 proof (40% ABV)
  • How to drink: Highball
  • Similar to: Cutty Sark, Jack Daniel’s


The nose hits you with a spicy blast at first, followed by a leathery note and nail polish.

On the palate, the Red Label has a thin body, is warm and hits you with spice and pepper providing a not pretty mouthfeel. There is some butterscotch coming behind, along a leathery note and tobacco.

The finish is short, which is a good thing as you do not want to extend the pain, it’s also warm and peppery.


The Red Label is not a good sipper, the flavor is too peppery and boozy providing a bad experience.

It gets better when served on a high ball as mineral water tunes down the heat and spice, which is not a great achievement as everything gets better when served in a highball.

Overall, the Red Label is not a good whisky and the worst Johnnie Walker this is not something I would recommend neither to newbies or for those who value a smooth dram.

If you are drinking on a budget there are better options out there such as the Dewar’s or Jameson which mixes incredibly well in any cocktail.

Red Label facts:

  • This is the best-selling whisky in the world. It was consumed by Sir Winston Churchill and Superman after being exposed to kryptonite. Red Label is everywhere to be found, from the liquor store across the street to an airplane.
  • Johnnie Walker Red Label has been the best-selling Scotch whisky across the globe since 1945, although not the best-selling in neither the UK nor Scotland where Bell’s and the Famous Grouse are the favorites.
  • This brand is owned by Diageo a British spirits giant, with an extensive portfolio in the industry including Casamigos, Don Julio, Captain Morgan, Talisker, Bulleit and a zillion other brands

Johnnie Walker Black Label

  • Nose: Vanilla, orange zest, nectarine
  • Palate: Smoke, roasted malt, caramel, vanilla
  • Finish: Long, fruity, peppery, smoke
  • Alcohol content: 80 proof (40% ABV)
  • How to drink: Rocks
  • Similar to: Jack Daniel’s, Jameson


On the nose, there is vanilla off the gate, followed by citrus zest, nectarine and a whiff of alcohol.

On the palate, body feels thin with not much body. Johnnie Walker Black Label has mildly sweet taste, with a flavor rich in peat. There are also hints of toffee and vanilla coming behind.

The finish has some peat, black pepper, salt, caramel and a bit of warmth but nothing terrible or off-putting.

Is it good?

Overall, the Black Label is a reliable whisky, striking a good balance of smoke and sweetness, with peat smoke and charred oak barrel smoke.

Quite smooth but with a warm finish that does not overwhelm. Nevertheless, on a lot of ice as it is commonly served it totally hits the spot.

The Black Label serves as an introductory bottle to smoky Scotch, those with a hint coming from the peats used to dry the malted barley.

The peaty note in the Black Label is not overpowering and is a good starting point before trying more complex whiskies.

Black Label facts:

  • The blend includes whiskies from Islay, sweet and salty whiskies from Speyside along some malts coming from the Scottish Highlands.
  • Johnnie Walker is the best-selling whisky brand in the world doubling the sales of the closest competitor. The brand was started by a Scottish grocer, John Walker, in the early 19th century.

There are two main differences between Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label

  • Red Label is an 80 proof (40% ABV) blend of 35 grain and malt whiskies with no age statement while Black Label is an 80 proof (40% ABV) blend of 40 grain and malt whiskies aged for a minimum of 12 years.
  • Black Label is a peated whisky, that is, a smoky flavor provided by the peat fires used to dry the malted barley.

Johnnie Walker Red Label vs Black Label: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

Red Label$20
Black Label$30

Johnnie Walker Red Label vs Black Label: Which is Better?

The Black Label is infinitely better than the Red Label.

  • Black Label is the baseline for most people who take whisky tasting seriously. This bottle serves as an introductory bottle to the world of Scotch peaty whisky before tackling the heavyweights in this category such as Talisker, Ardbeg or Lagavulin.

Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker, one of the most widely distributed blended Scotch whiskey brands in the world, originated in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire.

The brand’s story begins with John Walker, who started a lucrative grocery business with his father’s inheritance.

John Walker, himself a teetotaler, found his competitive advantage in the whiskeys that he blended himself, offering his customers a consistent product.

Whiskey accounted for about eight percent of sales when John’s son Alexander Walker took over the business after his father’s death in 1857, and by the time the company moved to the third generation, this share was already between 90 and 95 percent.

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