Colin Dunn’s One Hour Challenge: Johnnie Walker Black Label


During our brilliant tasting of the Johnnie Walker range at Goodwood with Colin Dunn, I was particularly impressed with the extent to which the whiskies (especially the Gold Label) evolved over time in the glass. Colin suggested that I try a glass of Black Label over the course of an hour, to see how it changes; something that I’ve since entitled “Colin’s One Hour Challenge”. Here are the results.

The nose seemed quite sharp to start with, with alcohol and grain being the main notes that I picked up. It was slightly syrupy to taste, with a lightly smoky flavour that was woody and rich underneath. It was neither too smooth, nor too bold.

The flavour has mellowed slightly, even after 10 minutes, being softer and sweeter than before. It seemed more viscous on the tongue, with a distinctive burst of smokiness following the initial sweetness.

Again, the whisky seems sweeter and lighter, especially on the nose. The flavour is now notably sweeter, with a woody peatiness coming through where it was previously more of a hint. The finish is also warmer and more lasting.

As opposed to the lighter profile of the previous timestamp, I found that by this point, the whisky had grown much richer and more syrupy than before. It was substantially heavier, like a liqueur, and, although it was more mellow in the mouth, it was a lot brighter and more active after swallowing, with a lasting warmth. This point was my personal favourite, which was something of an education, as often a good portion of the whisky in my glass has disappeared by the time I get to 20 minutes.

There wasn’t so much change in this period; the only changes I spotted were an additional spicy note on the nose and a slightly more savoury finish that brought to mind smokey wood casks and toasted grain.

I think I’m getting used to the sweetness now, because – again – it seems more savoury. The syrupiness from the beginning is still there, if you look for it, but is hidden by the more savoury grain and woody notes. It’s incredibly smooth for the first few seconds, before a warmth that is accompanied by a smoky woodiness (as opposed to peatiness). The aftertaste has also developed in an intriguing manner, with a celery-like pepperiness coming into play.

Again, the nose seemed less sweet and the taste even smoother than before. Otherwise, there weren’t any major developments in the flavour; as a matter of fact, relative to the earlier points, I thought it was slightly bland by this point.

No change to the nose. The whisky really wasn’t at its best by this point, in my opinion: there was still smoke and a drier woodiness in the flavour, but it was less complex and multidimensional and had a much shorter finish.

In Conclusion
This was an incredibly interesting experiment and one that I’d highly recommend; I’ll certainly be trying it with other whiskies and will want to try it again with the Black Label at a later date, to see if my finding that my favourite stage in which to drink it is some twenty-to-thirty minutes after its been poured is a consistent one.

– Mrs. B