The Story of Johnnie Walker
The story of Johnnie Walker whisky is a remarkable one and one that spans almost 200 years!
In 1819, a man called John Walker's father died. The next year, the then 15-year-old John decided to use his inheritance money to buy a small grocery shop in Kilmarnock. Even from a young age, John had an excellent mind for business - he started making and selling blended whisky to sell to his customers which proved to be really popular.
In 1837, John and his wife, Elizabeth, welcomed a son, Alexander. Once he entered his teenage years, Alexander started to work for the family business.
1843 saw the arrival of the railway in Kilmarnock, which had exciting implications for the business. Britain was at the centre of the Industrial Revolution, and the addition of this railway meant that there was the potential to spread John Walker's well-loved whisky, now named Walker's Kilmarnock Whisky, all across the country.
Tragedy struck in 1852, when a flood wiped out the entirety of Walker's Kilmarnock Whisky's stock, and in turn, nearly destroyed the business. However, the fortunately managed to bounce back from this and continued to sell their best-loved produce.
John died in 1857, leaving his hugely successful business to his son, Alexander. After the death of his father, Alexander promised to transform their whisky business into a global phenomenon. Just like his father, Alexander had an extremely innovative mind and had a natural talent for business.
Alexander was the person to come up with the iconic square bottle and slanted label that Johnnie Walker is famous for today. The square shape made transporting the bottles easier as they fitted together perfectly and were much less likely to break in transit. On top of this, the slanted label made the brand instantly recognisable.
Under Alexander's leadership, the brand started to win awards and gained international acclaim. In 1867, he launched the brand's first commercial blend which he named Old Highland Whisky.
After Alexander's death in 1889, the business was passed down to his sons, Alexander II and George. Just like their father and grandfather, Alexander II and George took the business from strength to strength. They are responsible for commissioning the illustration of the Striding Man, designed by Thom Browne, as well as naming the whiskies after the colour of the label on each bottle. The first of these newly branded whiskies were Johnnie Walker Red Label (formerly known as the Special Old Highland), Johnnie Walker Black Label (formerly known as the Extra Special Old Highland), and the short-lived Johnnie Walker White Label (formerly known as The Old Highland).
By 1920, Johnnie Walker was available in 1920 countries across the globe, and in 1934, John Walker & Sons was granted a Royal Warrant by King George V.
The massive success of Johnnie Walker has never slowed down. Today, the brand is owned by Diageo and it is the most popular blended whisky in the world.
Keen to learn more? Well, you're in luck! The creative folk at Johnnie Walker created this fantastic video starring Scottish actor Robert Carlyle to tell the story for us!
So, pour yourself a dram of Johnnie’s whisky, sit back and prepare to take a walk with Johnnie Walker.
Follow the journey with Johnnie Walker Blue Label.