Last Updated on October 26, 2022 by Lydia Martin
The Johnnie Walker Black and Red labels are two of the most popular Scotch whiskies in the world.
Their affordable price range and decades of distribution experience are significant factors that made Johnnie Walker the best-selling whisky brand.
Let’s uncover and compare the differences between Johnnie Walker Red vs Black Label to decide which is the better choice.
Johnnie Walker Red & Black In-Depth Comparison
One of the biggest differences between the Johnnie Walker Red Label vs Black Label is their price. The Black Label costs almost twice the Red Label’s price.
The Johnnie Walker Red Label features a combo of mild whisky spirits from Scotland’s East and West coasts. It has excellent quality, suitable for mixing cocktails. However, it doesn’t contain an age statement.
On the other hand, the Johnnie Walker Black Label is crafted from a blend of 40 older whiskies across Scotland. It features consistent profile notes but is a little high-priced than the Red. It has a 12-year age statement.
A Closer Look At Their Differences
History & Origin
The Johnnie Walker Black Label and Red Label share the same history and origin, both blended Scotch whiskies  are from Scotland.
This most widely distributed brand starts with John Walker, who distilled various spirits like rum, gin, brandy, and whisky. In 1857, John died, so Alexander Walker (his son) and Alexander Walker II (grandson) continued the legacy.
They started combining whiskies to craft delicious yet affordable spirits, leading to the introduction of J. Walker spirits. Check out Johnnie Walker Blue Label here.
How It’s Made
Some of the whisky used in making the Red and Black were not made by any Diageo distillery. But, most were crafted at one of their facilities across Scotland.
The Black and Red Labels are distilled using copper pot stills. We can’t say precisely how Diageo made their Red Label and Black Label, but the spirits certainly undergo the malting process.
The barrels used to make each batch will then undergo distillation before it is blended, managed by the brand’s blending team. Also, both are bottled at 40% ABV.
Component whiskies are made up of complex blends. The Red Label was crafted from an 80-proof blend of 35 malt and grain whiskies produced in various distilleries, while the Black Label was crafted from an 80-proof blend of 40 12-year-old whiskies.
The Johnnie Walker brand can also be made using various cereal grains, such as wheat, corn, and malted barley.
Aging Process & Statement
Scotch whisky should be aged for at least three years in oak barrels. The Johnnie Walker Red Label is a NAS whisky (No Age Statement), which means it’s aged for at least three years. So, it uses less mature barrels.
Meanwhile, the Johnnie Walker Black Label has a 12-year statement, which means each barrel used during the blending process was aged 12 years (at the minimum).
How It’s Served
Between the Johnnie Walker Red Label vs Black Label, you can serve them differently. The Red is not a good sipping whisky; it is best served with mixed drinks.
Conversely, the Black whisky (especially the Double Black) is ideal for sipping neat and over ice. But you can serve both of them in a highball glass.
Johnnie Walker Red
- Palate: Peppery notes with toasted oak spice, a dash of toffee sweetness, and tobacco
- Nose: Black pepper with malty notes, leather, vanilla, and peat smoke
- Color: Honey gold
- Finish: Peppery, warm but short finish
Johnnie Walker Black
- Palate: Perfectly balanced taste of malt, citrus flowers, fruit, and spice
- Nose: Notes of red berries, mild smoke, and winter spice
- Color: Polished amber
- Finish: Satisfyingly long with the sweetness of fruits, pepper spice, and citrus peel
Price & Value
The price of the Johnnie Walker Red Label vs Black Label is a little different as the Red bottle is cheaper than the Black.
The Red Label costs around $27 per 750ml bottle, while the Black Label is around $40 per 750ml bottle.
Is Johnnie Walker Black Label smoother than the Red Label?
Yes, Johnnie Walker Black Label is smoother than the Red Label.
The Black’s long maturation process, quality grain whisky, and high portions of vatted malt whisky components make it softer than the Red one.
Which Johnnie Walker is harder to find, red or black?
The Black and Red labels are not hard to find. They are the best-selling Scotch whisky bottles that you can easily find in every liquor store in the world.
It’s the Johnnie Walker Blue Label and the Johnnie Walker Green Label that are rare. Let’s rank all the Johnnie Walker colors here.
Is Johnnie Walker Black better on the rocks than the Red?
Yes. When served on the rocks, Johnnie Walker Black is much better than the Red Label.
It is smooth with a warm and long-lasting finish but not overwhelming.
Between the Johnnie Walker Red vs Black Label, your choice will depend on your preference.
The Red one is a great intro to the wider category of blended whisky – and it will surely fit anyone’s budget, especially if you are into vanilla.
But if you want a more complex spirit, opt for the Black one.
Though it’s priced higher than Red, it’s a much more reliable spirit, giving a well-balanced taste of fruity sweetness and smoke.
It can also be your starting point to explore peated Scotch and more complex spirits.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.