Liquor Laboratory

Johnnie Walker Red vs Black Whisky (2024)

Johnnie Walker Red vs Black 

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 vs Black In-Depth Comparison

black and red label johnnie walker bottles

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 [1] 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

copper pot still

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. 

But what’s the most expensive Johnnie Walker?

Key Ingredients

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. 

Read: Johnnie Walker Green & Blue Compared

Aging Process & Statement

oak barrels

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).

Check out Johnnie Walker Black vs Double Black Label here.

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. 

Read: Johnnie Walker Black Label vs Blue Whisky

Tasting Notes

woman smelling liqour on the 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. 

FAQs Related to Johnnie Walker Red vs Black Whisky

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. 

What distinguishes Johnnie Walker Red Label from Black Label?

Johnnie Walker Red Label is a lighter, more versatile blend with a sweeter taste profile, while Black Label is known for its richer, smokier flavor and depth.

Is Johnnie Walker Red Label or Black Label stronger? 

Both Red Label and Black Label have the same alcohol content, typically around 40% ABV (alcohol by volume), so they have the same strength in terms of alcohol content.

Which Johnnie Walker label is better for mixing cocktails? 

Johnnie Walker Red Label is often preferred for mixing cocktails due to its lighter and more versatile flavor profile, making it a great choice for classic whiskey cocktails like Highballs or Scotch and Soda.

Can Johnnie Walker Red Label be enjoyed neat or on the rocks? 

While Johnnie Walker Red Label is typically used for mixing cocktails, it can also be enjoyed neat or on the rocks if you prefer its lighter and smoother taste profile.

Which Johnnie Walker label is better for beginners? 

Johnnie Walker Red Label is often recommended for beginners due to its lighter and more approachable flavor profile, making it a great introduction to the world of Scotch whisky.

Can I taste the difference between Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label? 

Yes! Both labels offer distinct flavor profiles, so it’s worth trying them side by side to experience the differences in taste, aroma, and complexity.

Final Verdict 

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. 


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