10 Facts You Didn't Know About Johnnie Walker
Johnnie Walker was a real person.
The original John Walker was a grocer. After his father died, he inherited a farm which he sold for £417. He then used this money to purchase an Italian warehouse, grocery, and wine and spirits shop on the High Street in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, which he ran. He imported the finest spirits from around the world, making him very knowledgeable about Scotland's single malt trends.
His first blends were made to 'fix' popular single malts.
John Walker was a teetotaller. However, he used the skills he had gained by blending tea to blend whisky. Scotch single malts could vary wildly in quality from batch to batch, however they were still massively popular. He aimed to create a whisky that was consistent, and that balanced out impurities. This came about by making uniform batches for his regular customers, who came back again and again for his smooth and unwavering blends.
The first commercial expression was launched by John Walker's son.
It was John's son Alexander who saw the brilliance in his father's product. He was the one that launched the original Johnnie Walker blend: Old Highland Whisky, with a white label. You will see that even this early incarnation used the iconic square bottle.
The iconic square bottle was a cost-saving invention.
The unmistakable Johnnie Walker square bottle was invented by Alexander to prevent breakages during transit. Quite simply, cubes are stronger than cylinders. Its pure geometry: cubes and cylinders have a characteristic strength ratio of 15:12, meaning cubes are 125% stronger. The unique shape also means that the bottles slot more easily together in their cases, meaning more can be packaged in the same size container. In addition, they require less glass to create, making them lighter. Very economic!
Each colour serves a different meaning.
The colour identification was another invention by Alexander, and they each have different meanings. The Red has been the best selling Scotch whisky in the world since 1945; it was created for blending with soda. The Black is peated, and is aged for 12 years. There’s also a Double Black that is even smokier and a Green Label which is made with only 15 year old malt whisky, not grain. The iconic, sought-after Blue is rich and smooth, blended to recreate the character and taste of some of the earliest whisky blends created in the 19th century.
Keep Walking: The Striding Man was drawn by a cartoonist.
Their logo of the striding man was drawn by Tom Browne of Punch Magazine. He first drew the man, based on a London Dandy, in 1908, but it wasn't until the 1950's that he was emblazoned upon bottles of Johnnie Walker. Before this, he could only been seen on adverts.
Johnnie Walker has many famous fans.
F1 star Jenson Button and actor Jude Law both starred in Johnnie Walker's "Joy will take you further." campaign. Former US president, Richard Nixon, enjoyed Blue Label with ginger beer and a slice of lime. Even one Winston Churchill painted a bottle of Black Label in his artwork, Bottlescape. Although, his favourite was famously the Red Label, mixed with lots of water and drank at all hours of the day.
Johnnie Walker released a Blade Runner themed expression.
To celebrate the release of Blade Runner 2049, Johnnie Walker released a futuristic bottle of Black Label. Back in 1982, they made a special version of it for use as a prop; Black Label being the drink of choice of Harrison Ford. This time, it was filled with an actual expression - a combination of over 30 single malts and grain whiskies, blended in Black Label style, but with a smokier twist. It's presented at a higher strength of 49% abv, as a reference to the year in which the new film is set - or perhaps they simply thought people of the future have more robust palates.
Johnnie Walker is named-dropped in many a song.
The cultural impact of Johnnie Walker can be felt in the abundance of songs that mention the brand. The likes of Lady Gaga, ZZ Top, Passenger, Elliot Smith and The Streets all have Johnnie Walker in their lyrics. Heavy metal band Black Label Society was even named after Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, as founder Zakk Wylde is a big fan of the expression.
The whisky is made up of many expressions from all over Scotland.
Johnnie Walker is owned by Diageo, and is made up of four main whiskies from across Scotland. Johnnie Walker calls these distilleries their ‘Four Corners Distilleries’: Glenkinchie, Clynelish, Cardhu, & Caol Ila. Glenkinchie imparts Lowland floral notes, Clynelish provides Highland fruitiness, Cardhu gives a Speyside complexity and Caol Ila lends an Islay kick. They represent the landscape of flavours that impart their unique characters to Johnnie Walker whiskies. You can visit each distillery, and sample each expression (along with plenty of Johnnie Walker blends) at their all-new visitor centre in Edinburgh.
Browse our full range of Johnnie Walker: here.