Glenfiddich and Johnnie Walker are two of the most famous and well known whisky brands in the world. Each of their distinctive bottles are icons of great quality Scotch, easily spotted on the backbars of pubs, restaurants and cocktail venues in every corner of the globe.
But for you, the curious whisky adventurer – which should you buy?
As you might know, both companies have extensive ranges of bottles ranging vastly in character, flavour and price. So for this blog post, I’ll take a look at their two signature expressions; Glenfiddich 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label – to help you discern and decide between the two.
This article will review the smell, taste, finish and price value of each bottle so you can easily get an understanding of what each whisky is like. Hopefully it’ll help you decide which bottle is ‘the one’ for you.
Let’s dive in.
Glenfiddich 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label
Glenfiddich 12 year old
Nose: Floral, malty, sweet & citrus
Palate: Light, floral, smooth with spice
Finish: Sweet, oak & fruit
Age: 12 years (minimum)
Region: Speyside, Scotland
Chill filtered: Yes
Casks: ex-bourbon & Spanish sherry oak
Strength: 80 proof / 40% ABV.
Classification: Single malt Scotch
Price: US$45 UK£37
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Nose: Strong fruit with vanilla sweetness.
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: 80 proof / 40% ABV.
Classification: Blended Scotch
Price: US$32 UK£27
A closer look at Glenfiddich 12 year old
Aroma: Opening this tremendous looking triangular green bottle, the Glenfiddich 12 year old has a subtle, yet delightful aroma of sweet floral notes accompanied by fruity and honey undertones. With a little patience, citrus notes open up as you inhale again, offering a light, refreshing and slightly malty essence. There’s also a light oaky and sweet scent which I reckon comes from the American bourbon cask aging. It reminds me of honey and fruit with a touch of orange. Overall, the nose of Glenfiddich 12 is an inviting and complex mixture of fragrant aromas that will draw you in for another enticing whiff. So far, a very seductive beginning!
Flavour: On your first sip, the Glenfiddich 12 year old whisky meets you with light floral and spicy notes that give way to subtle undertones of oaky sweetness. These nuances blend together seamlessly to create a easy breezy drinking experience. The whisky has a gentle warmth on the tongue that finishes deliciously with hints of sweet fruitiness, providing one last layer of fruitiness before it eventually fades. Glenfiddich 12’s unique combination of American bourbon and Spanish sherry oak casks gives it a distinctively balanced flavour profile that is surprisingly smooth for its 80 proof strength. For Irish whiskey fans, it actually reminds me a little of Red Breast 12.
Mouthfeel: The 12 year old has a light and smooth feeling in the mouth. It is not too strong or overpowering, but it does have a very gentle spiced warmth to it. When you swallow, you’ll taste some sweet fruitiness that lingers for a moment before fading away.
Finish: For me, this whisky has a slightly oily, sweet and fruity finish. It’s isn’t too viscous and not at all heavy. It has a light oaky taste with some sweetness that stays in your mouth after you swallow. It’s certainly smooth and not too strong or overpowering.
Price: As their signature expression, Glenfiddich’s 12 year old offers an excellent value for money. This entry-level single malt has a modest price tag of US$47 or UK£37 which I personally think is quite reasonable considering the quality of the product. The whisky is super easy to drink and a lovely light floral sort of character.
What I like is the dual cask maturation style using both American bourbon and Spanish sherry oak casks. It brings a lovely sweet profile to this very smooth whisky, which is full of floral subtlety, sweetness and depth.
For good reason, Glenfiddich 12 is also highly awarded, being named World’s Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky several times by the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC).
I think Glenfiddich 12 an excellent choice for those looking for a premium single malt Scotch whisky at an affordable price. Glenfiddich’s commitment to excellence and quality assurance ensures that you get the best bang for your buck if you get behind this classic Speyside whisky.
A closer look at Johnnie Walker Black Label
Aroma: Opening the metal screw cap off the square-profile bottle, it’s a slightly less luxurious experience compared to the corked Glenfiddich 12. (Who doesn’t love the sound of a cork stopper!?) On your first sniff, Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky has a nose of intense and complex aromas, with a strong presence of sweet fruit, including notes of orange, lemon and apples. For me, there’s an unmistakable vanilla sweetness that rounds out the aroma. It’s a very inviting scent. Amidst this sweetness, there’re also smoky and woody undertones – the quintessential Johnnie Walker smell.
Flavour: After a swirl and a chance to ‘breathe’ the first sip of Black Label is incredibly creamy with an immediately sweet, malty flavour. For me, I taste Scottish ‘tablet’ (a kind of sugary toffee) with dried fruits – mostly raisins and dates. After a few moments, a gentle spiced warmth rises on your palate. Cinnamon and oak mostly.
So far, I’m disinclined to add any water as I personally find this whisky to be incredibly smooth. On second and third sips, the overarching flavours are sweet and smoky. It’s a lovely balance between the two with a gentle oak spice. Although I’m drinking this nip neat, I can definitely taste why this whisky would make a great base-component for mixers or cocktails.
Mouthfeel: Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky has a light, oily texture that coats your mouth. On the palate, it’s incredibly mellow with underlying notes of smokiness lingering in the aftertaste. There are subtle hints of oak and spice that combine with a gentle, sweet maltiness for a rounded finish. Despite its 40% ABV strength, there’s no ‘burn’ or bitterness to the whisky at all.
Finish: Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky has a smooth and warming finish that lingers on the tongue. Its smokiness intertwines with lovely sweet and oaky notes for a medium to long aftertaste. For me, the finish has an addictive sweetness balanced with smoke and spice, leaving a light, lingering impression.
Price: Black Label whisky costs about $33 in the United States or £27 here in the UK. For a blend like this, I reckon it’s pretty good value. You’re getting a super-easy to drink whisky with sweet fruit aromas, creamy toffee and spice flavors. For Johnnie Walker newbies, it’s got the classic smoky finish that makes this dram so nicely balanced.
Positioned as the Red Label’s ‘big brother’, this blended Scotch is still one of the more affordable bottles within Johnny Walker’s range. Compared to the slightly cheaper Red Label, it uses an even wider blend of 40 malt and wheat whiskeys which have been matured for a minimum of 12 years.
Light and sweet, it’s an excellent choice for people who’re new to drinking whisky and it’s also great for making cocktails. It’s a very versatile and relatively easy-drinking Scotch blend.
Glenfiddich – recommended food pairings
Glenfiddich 12 year old single malt whisky makes an exceptional accompaniment to a variety of foods. Glenfiddich is well known for its floral and honey-like flavours, which pair well with light, herbal dishes. Glenfiddich also has notes of citrus, malt and oak barrel aging that can provide a unique flavour profile when paired with food.
For the Glenfiddich enthusiast looking to elevate their meals, the 12 year old signature expression pairs exceptionally well with fresh seafood such as oysters or mussels. The sweet notes match perfectly with lighter fish like seabass or trout. Additionally, it’s great when paired with grilled pork chops or roasted chicken seasoned simply with salt and pepper. For a more indulgent meal, Glenfiddich 12 also goes well with classic comfort foods like macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes.
The complex flavours in this whisky are accentuated when combined with an appropriate side dish such as linguini alfredo, mushrooms sautéed in butter, or risotto primavera – all of which bring out the subtle sweetness and honey flavours within the dram. Sauces like red wine reduction sauce can also be added to further enhance the flavour profile of Glenfiddich–additionally this will create a delightful balance between the sweet Scotch whisky and the earthy taste brought out by the sauce.
Johnnie Walker – recommended food pairings
Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch whisky is a smooth yet complex blend with light, smoky flavours that make it a great addition to meals. The whisky’s sweet and oaky notes pair particularly well with richer dishes like steak or pasta.
For those looking to elevate their dinner experience even further, the smokiness of the whisky can be used to amplify traditionally savoury flavours such as beef bourguignon, beef brisket, and barbecued ribs.
The sweetness of Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch also goes very well with desserts such as chocolate cake or crème brulée. It can be combined with other ingredients to create sophisticated cocktails like an Old Fashioned (with bitters) or a Manhattan (with sweet vermouth). Alternatively, the whisky can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
For an exquisite combination of flavours and textures, try pairing Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch whisky with brie cheese, blue cheese tartlets, or smoked salmon sandwiches. Sweet fruits like oranges and apples bring out the sweetness of the whisky while salty accompaniments such as bacon crisps help balance out its smoky flavour profile.
Glenfiddich 12 Cocktail suggestions
Johnnie Walker Black Label Cocktail suggestions
Glenfiddich 12 and Johnnie Walker Black Label are two popular Scotch whiskies that appeal to different consumers. Glenfiddich is a single malt Scotch whisky, while Johnnie Walker is a blended Scotch whisky.
Glenfiddich 12 has a light and sweet profile, making it an excellent choice for whiskey newcomers who’re looking for an accessible single malt experience. Its taste notes include subtle aromas of apples and pears with a lovely light floral honey taste. For me, this is the smoother of the two whiskies which favours my fondness for light and fruity Speysides.
Johnnie Walker Black Label is a little harsher than Glenfiddich12, with notes of dried fruits, smoke, and toffee sweetness in the finish. This blend is super versatile and can be enjoyed on its own or used in cocktails such as Bobby Burns or Johnnie Penicillin. At a slightly lower price point than Glenfiddich 12, Johnny Walker Black Label offers great value for the money.
Ultimately, Glenfiddich 12 and Johnnie Walker Black Label offer different experiences that each have their place in whisky culture. Glenfiddich’s lightness makes it ideal for beginners or those who prefer lighter flavours, while Johnny Walker’s complexity is perfect for more experienced whisky drinkers looking for something more robust and flavourful.
Glenfiddich 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label – Author’s recommendation
For me, the Glenfiddich 12 year old comes out on top in this comparison. For little extra money, I think it’s worth splurging for the Speyside single malt – simply due to how well rounded this whisky is. It delicately balances lovely floral and honey sweetness which make it a real benchmark Speyside. If you’ve never tried it before, it’d make a great addition to your whisky shelf.
Don’t get me wrong, the Johnnie Walker Black Label is a lovely blend which, to me, has a stronger profile of smoky sweetness. I just find it a little less smooth than the Glenfiddich.
Hopefully you found this comparison helpful, thanks for reading.