Like parking tickets, food poisoning or piles, I think it’s fair to say everyone will have had Johnnie Walker Red Label at least once in their lives. From humble beginnings in a grocery store in 1820 to an international corporation’s biggest money-spinner, Johnnie Walker Red holds the distinction of being the world’s best selling Scotch whisky. And it’s easy to see why…
…basically, because it’s cheap. Cheap and everywhere, and given luxury status in easily influenced markets by a massive marketing machine. Cough. I’m well acquainted with Johnnie Walker Red, and for the sake of completeness knew I’d one day have to review it in a proper glass and take one for the team. That day is today. Forward, the Light Brigade!
Alcoholic cornflakes. This isn’t as awesome as it sounds. Grain. Buttery toast. Slightly sour milk. Pastry. Floral notes, and… soap. All held together by the graceful aroma of damp cardboard. Nectar of the Gods.
Alcohol, syrup. Seeds, cereal. Bread and butter. Vanilla. A tiny amount of that JW peat. And regret. Red label goes down harsh, and makes you suffer all the way. To its credit it doesn’t engage the gag reflex, but it’s just so artificial tasting, simple, overly sweet and boring that it feels like a waste of precious calories engaging the muscles required to move the glass between table and mouth.
Grainy, astringent and as bitter as defeat.
So water doesn’t fix anything. Ice is a step in the right direction, if only because it numbs the tastebuds. Soda water – getting there. Soda water and ice? Bingo. Johnnie Walker advertises Red Label as a whisky for mixing, and rightly so. It sits in that sweet spot of being cheap enough that you’ll have no qualms mixing it with whatever sugary filth you’d like, while not being so vom-worthy that it would ruin the cocktail. In fact, I’m perfectly happy having a glug of the old Red Label with some soda – cheapest drink at the bar.
There’s a guy at every local pub – large, late fifties, big red nose, grumpy. You’ll find him hunched over the bar watching sport on the miniature TV above the Red Bull fridge, nursing a tumbler. If you ever wondered what force conspired to render him so tired, cynical and miserable – it was Johnnie Walker Red Label.
Perfect for mixing cheap drinks designed to get you hammered. But if you want something to sip and savour, keep walking! 😀