Chivas Regal 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label

Chivas Regal 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label | Battle of the blends

When it comes to blended Scotch whiskies, two titan brands are synonymous with the category. If you’re looking for a Scotch whisky that best suits your tastes, Chivas Regal 12 and Johnnie Walker Black Label are two of the most popular options available.

But which one should you choose?

In this blog post, I’ll compare Chivas Regal 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky to help you decide which is right for you. We’ll look at the smell, taste, finish and price value of each bottle so that by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what to expect from each whisky. Plus, I’ve thrown in some bonus food pairing suggestions and cocktail recipes which suit these whiskies perfectly.

Before you delve in

Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker both specialise in making blended Scotch whisky. Neither brand make any single malts and instead, source malt and grain whiskies from around Scotland to make their ranges of blends.

Chivas Regal are owned by French wine and spirits company Pernod Ricard. Their range of blends are structured around the Strathisla single malt from Keith, Speyside. They source their other single malts from 13 other distilleries with the majority of them also being based in Speyside including one from Scapa in Orkney and a grain whisky from the Strathclyde distillery in Glasgow.

Johnnie Walker is the flagship Scotch blend brand owned by spirits giant, Diageo. Their range is made using single malt and grain whiskies (such as wheat) from all around Scotland. As many as 40 varieties are used for a single blend such as their world-famous Black Label bottle. Designed to express ‘the 4 corners of Scotland’ their flavour profiles balance light Lowlands, smooth Speysides, robust smoky Islays and floral Highland whiskies.

Chivas Regal 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label

Chivas Regal Whisky

Chivas Regal 12 year old

Nose: Herbs, honey, heather & fruit

Palate: Banana, malt, aniseed, nuts, spice & toffee

Finish: Spice, black pepper & sweet

Age: 12 years (minimum)

Region: Multi-region, Scotland

Chill filtered: Yes

Casks: Muti-cask maturation

Strength: 40 ABV / 80 proof

Classification: Blended Scotch

Price: £28 / $34

Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky in front of yellow background

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Nose: Sweet fruit with vanilla

Palate: Creamy toffee, sweet fruit & spice

Finish: Warm & smoky

Age: 12 years (minimum)

Region: Multi-region, Scotland

Chill filtered: Yes

Casks: Muti-cask maturation

Strength: 40 ABV / 80 proof

Classification: Blended Scotch

Price: £27 / $32

Bottle of Chivas Regal 12 year old whisky on bar top beside drinking glasses

A closer look at Chivas Regal 12

This Speyside blend is made in Keith, Moray, Scotland. Blended from an undisclosed mixture of single malt and grain whiskies, it’s aged in a combination of both American and European oak casks for a minimum of 12 years. Chivas Regal 12 is also colour adjusted for consistency and chill-filtered to prevent cloudiness from adding cold water or ice.

The 12 year old is their signature bottle, offering an entry-level experience amongst their core range of Scotch blends. Other bottles include their 13, 15, 18 and 25 year old expressions which are also blends.

The Chivas Regal 12 is structured around a single malt made by the brand’s key-distillery; Strahisla. This spirit makes the backbone of all their blends, supplemented by whiskies from Longmorn, The Glenlivet, Allt-a-Bhainne, Miltonduff Distillery and Braeval.

You could say this whisky is primarily a Speyside blend, containing so many single malts from that specific region. Characteristically, their whiskies are generally very light bodied with honeyed fruity notes which I certainly experienced with their 12 year old below.

Aroma:

Opening the stout round bottle, Chivas Regal 12 has a deep and aromatic nose, with notes of herbs and honey at the forefront. If you know what heather smells like, it’s a floral, herbaceous aroma that mingles wonderfully with the honey. Pouring into a glass, it releases further hints of heather, fruit and banana. After a little swirl, there’s a sweet maltyness to this whisky with faint hints of aniseed, nuts, spice and a little toffee. I also get a faint waft wood in the background, adding an extra layer of depth.

Flavour:

On the first sip, this whisky is a little harsh with peppery spiced notes. For new whisky drinkers, this might be too much of a burn. However, with a little water, it does have a lovely creamy sweetness with fruity notes of banana chips and barley malt. If you’re going to drink this, I’d suggest starting with a little water and going from there, adding a small amount until it ‘opens up’ some more.

Further into my glass, I taste nutmeg, cinnamon and star anise which I’m told makes up allspice – it’s a pleasing warmth in your mouth. There’s also tastes of toasted walnuts and caramel which eventually come through.

Mouthfeel:

Chivas Regal 12 is a light-bodied whisky with an up front, assertive pepperiness. For an entry level blend, it has a fairly intense spicy mouthfeel that lingers on your tongue. There’s also hints of malt, nutmeg, and cinnamon that meld nicely. Later (with patience) a honey sweetness does come through.

Finish:

The Chivas Regal 12 whisky has a short, light and spicy finish. There’s still that heat of black pepper, hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, and vague sweetness. The aftertaste has tones of honey and cereal that linger briefly on the tongue for some time after sipping.

Price: Chivas Regal 12 Year Old is a good entry point for blended whisky, especially when you consider its age. It’s priced at around US$34 and UK£28 – for a 12 year old blended Scotch, there aren’t many whiskies that can compete in terms of price and quality. For those looking for an affordable yet sophisticated whisky, Chivas Regal 12 is worth considering if you like a bit of heat and spice in your dram.

If you’re used to rye whiskey or maybe even the chili heat of a Talisker, Chivas Regal 12 might be the winning option for you. Just be prepared to add a little water to help bring out some of the malty sweetness.

Bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky

A closer look at Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker is consistently one of the top selling Scotch whisky brands in the world. It’s iconic square bottles, diagonal label and ‘keep walking’ emblem are instantly recognisable on any whisky or cocktail backbar.

Positioned as the more refined, older brother to their Red Label, Johnnie Walker’s Black Label blend is considered as their mature entry-level bottle. Like the Chivas Regal 12, it too comprises of 12 year old single malt and grain whiskies. However, the variety and diversity of these spirits stretch much further than the limits of Speyside.

Blending over 40 different whiskies, Black Label is designed to express ‘the four corners of Scotland’. Rather than stating each one, the brand simplifies this vast spread by highlighting the key spirits in this widely revered bottle. Whisky from Cardhu (Speyside), Caol Ila (Islay), Clynelish (Highlands) and Glenkinchie (Lowlands) all go into Black Label.

Aroma: On your first whiff, Johnnie Walker Black Label has a very inviting aroma that is made up of intense and complex notes. On the first sniff, there are sweet scents of fruit including orange, lemon and apples mixed with a hint of vanilla sweetness. There’s also an unmistakable smoky undertone which is a quintessential characteristic of Johnnie Walker whiskies, as well as woody and oaky notes. All of these scents come together to create a very alluring aroma.

Flavour: After a gentle swirl in my glass, the first sip of Black Label whisky has a smooth and creamy taste. It also has malty flavours of Scottish ‘tablet’ (a kind of toffee) and dried fruits like raisins and dates. After a moment or two, I get a gentle spiced warmth that follows, featuring warming notes of cinnamon and oak.

For me, this whisky offers a balanced combination of smokiness and sweetness with a lingering oaky spice. I can see why this balance makes it an excellent choice for cocktails or mixed drinks.

After a little time getting to know this blend, I’m actually pretty comfortable drinking it neat. Even without water, there’s very little harshness which is impressive. It’s terrifically smooth with an easy-drinking balance of smoky and sweet. There’s a woody background flavour which oddly reminds me of my Dad’s café crème cigars.

Mouthfeel: Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky has a light, oily texture that coats your tongue and mouth. It is incredibly mellow with smoky undertones lingering in the aftertaste. Notes of oak, spice, and sweet maltiness tantalize the palate before giving way to a smooth and rounded finish. Even at 40% ABV, there’s no detectable burn from this whisky.

Finish: For me, the Black Label has a smooth, warming finish that slowly develops on the tongue with a complex blend of smokiness, sweetness, oakiness and subtle spices. The smoke mingles with oaky notes to create an incredibly rich flavour that lingers on the palate for a medium to long aftertaste. Overall, it’s leaves a pleasant warmth in your mouth which I find pretty mellow.

Price: Coming in at a cost of around $33 USD or £27 British pounds, I reckon this bottle is an absolute steal! This smooth blend is packed with sweet fruit aromas, creamy toffee and spice flavours – perfect for those just starting their journey into the world of blended Scotch. Plus, you get that classic smoky finish that binds all the elements together. At this price point; it’s worth every penny.

Having tried the younger ‘Red Label’ bottle, this blended Scotch is worth the marginal extra cost. It’s got a much greater depth of smoke and peat which is present throughout. Despite being one of JW’s youngest bottles, it’s wonderfully light and sweet. A great entry point to the range and blended Scotch as a whole.

Person slicing smoked salmon fillet with a knife

Chivas Regal 12 Food pairings

This blended whisky goes well with foods that’re cooked with butter. The oils will help the flavours of the food combine with the whisky. Avoid dishes with garlic or too much chili because it can overpower the soft, delicate flavours of Chivas Regal 12.

For mains, fresh smoked salmon is a great choice. This whisky has fairly delicate notes notes of apple, honey, and heather which go perfectly together. Chivas Regal 12 also pairs perfectly with oysters, sushi or almost any kind of fish really.

For desserts, one of the best pairings would be various soft cheeses such as brie or goats cheese. Due to the smooth and soft flavour profile of Chivas Regal 12, it pairs wonderfully with mellow creamy cheese which harmonises with the whisky’s honey floral flavours.

Chivas Regal 12 Cocktail suggestions

Ingredients

  • 50ml Chivas 12yo
  • 25ml sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Cherry to garnish

Method

Add all your liquid ingredients in a rocks glass and stir with ice. Add more ice so that it’s tightly packed. Garnish with a skewered cherry before serving.

Ingredients

  • 50ml Chivas 12yo
  • 150ml oda water
  • 1 dash elderflower cordial
  • Lemon peel

Method

Add your whisky and cordial to an ice-filled highball glass. Stir gently with a bar spoon before adding the soda water. Pack the glass with more ice and garnish with a lemon peel before serving.

Ingredients

  • 50ml Chivas Regal 12
  • 150ml Soda Water
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • 12ml Sugar syrup
  • 1 dash Pernod Absinthe
  • 1 Egg white

Method

Excluding the soda water, add all your ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and strain into a chilled rocks glass. Top with soda water to create a head of foam. Serve.

Aerial view of steak with rosemary and garlic cloves on a plate

Johnnie Walker Black Label Food Pairings

Compared to the Chivas Regal 12, this is a much smokier whisky and is best paired with food that has a more robust flavour profile. Grilled meats such as steak or lamb are perfect for pairing with Johnnie Walker Black Label because the smoky notes will bring out the deep flavours of the meat.

The whisky also goes great with roasted vegetables like mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and squash. For something sweet to end your meal, consider pairing it with dark chocolate desserts such as brownies or cakes that have hints of coffee or espresso. The contrast between the sweet and smoky flavours creates an amazing combination.

Johnnie Walker Black Label Cocktail suggestions

Ingredients

  • 50ml Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 20ml Lemon juice
  • 15ml Egg white
  • 15ml Basic syrup

Method

Pour all your liquids and egg white into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake thoroughly for 30 seconds to incorporate the egg. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with lemon peel and serve.

Ingredients

  • 50ml Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 80ml Pineapple Juice
  • 25ml coconut syrup
  • 10ml Lime Juice
  • Salt

Method

1/2 fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add your liquid ingredients and salt. Shake for 15 seconds and strain into a tall ice filled glass. Drizzle a little more whisky on top and garnish with pineapple. Serve.

Ingredients

  • 50ml Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky
  • 25ml lime juice
  • 150ml ginger ale
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp Grated fresh ginger
  • Slice fresh ginger
  • Lime wedge

Method

Add the whisky, grated ginger and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and top with ginger ale. Garnish with a slice of fresh ginger and lime wedge. Serve.

Final thoughts

Choosing between Chivas Regal 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label, I found both whiskies to be relitively light with reasonable depth of flavour. However, the Chivas was just that little too harsh for me, even after adding a little water. There was a real upfront heat that fairly rattled my palate, which sadly took a while to calm down before the herbal sweetness eventually came through.

For me, the Chivas Regal 12 is an ‘alright’ Scotch blend. It has a fairly assertive pepperiness that verged on a ‘burn’ heat. I felt I had to wait for lighter notes of heather, nuts and cinnamon which did finally emerge later in the glass. This is just my opinion but I think there’s better entry-level blends than the Chivas for the same kind of price point.

Author’s recommendation

Coming out on top, Johnnie Walker Black Label is by far my preferred option here. I know it’s super mainstream and totally predictable, but this blend is just so damn easy to drink. Johnnie Walker’s Master blender Jim Beveridge has nailed the balance between smoky and sweetness which makes this whisky so pleasant.

There isn’t a huge difference in price between these blends, but you’re best sticking with the market leader on this one.

Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky beside a rocks drinking glass on bar top

Chivas Regal 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label – FAQ’s

Which is better Johnnie Walker or Chivas?

Johnnie Walker Black Label has a more immediate smoothness than the peppery Chivas Regal 12, making it a more easily enjoyed choice between the two. However, Chivas Regal 12 has instant heat but with following herbal and light honey complexity, making it a great option for those looking for something with more depth.

What compares to Johnny Walker Black?

Popular comparisons include Chivas Regal 12, The Famous Grouse, Glenfiddich Reserve 12-year-old and Aberlour 12-Year Old Double Cask Matured Scotch Whisky. All of these are of a similar price point to Johnnie Walker Black Label.

What should I mix with Chivas?

Chivas Regal pairs particularly well with ginger ale or lemonade to create a Chivas Ginger. Just add 50ml Chivas and top up with the mixer of your choice into a tall glass filled with ice cubes. Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice for an extra zingy kick. Alternatively, Chivas can be used in classic cocktails such as an Old-Fashioned or Manhattan to great effect. Chivas also makes for a delicious whisky sour when combined with lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white.

Is Chivas Regal a luxury brand?

Chivas Regal is a luxury Scotch whisky, primarily combining spirits from the finest Speyside distilleries. Chivas has been around for over 100 years and continues to remain one of the most popular blended whiskies in the world. Chivas Regal also offers higher-end expressions such as Chivas 18 year old, Chivas 25 year old and Chivas Ultis which are all examples of luxurious blended Scotch whiskies.

Is Johnnie Walker Black Label Strong?

At the minimum strength of 40% ABV (US 80 proof) Johnnie Walker Black Label is the typical alcoholic strength of blended Scotch whisky. All of Johnnie Walker’s range are this percentage, excluding the 43% ABV Green Label bottle which is made entirely of single malts.

What is better Glenfiddich or Chivas?

Glenfiddich is a single malt whisky, whilst Chivas is a blend. Chivas Regal tends to have a more complex range of flavours and aromas, thanks to its combination of malt and grain whiskies. Glenfiddich offers a sweeter taste profile but Chivas brings herbal sweetness as well as smoky notes. Ultimately, the choice between these two comes down to personal preference.

Is Johnnie Walker Black good for beginners?

Johnnie Walker Black Label is a great option for beginner whisky drinkers as it has a smooth and easily palatable flavour profile of smoke and sweetness. It’s also widely available and very affordable (considering its age), making it an attractive choice for those just starting out with Scotch whisky.

What is special about Johnnie Walker Black Label?

Johnnie Walker Black Label is a classic blend of around 40 whiskies that has been around for more than 200 years. It’s a combination of different single malts and grain whiskies from the four corners of Scotland, all aged for at least 12 years to create a unique flavour profile that balances smoke with sweetness. The result is a smooth whisky, perfect for enjoying neat or in cocktails.

Can you drink Black Label straight?

Yes, Johnnie Walker Black Label can be drank ‘neat’ to enjoy it’s overall sweet and smoky flavour profile. If this is too strong for you, try adding a small amount of cold water to help ‘open up’ the whisky. You should be able to taste the smoky sweetness with a mild level of peat. Sipping it slowly, you’ll also taste vanilla, dried fruit and subtle spice.

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