HISTORY OF JOHNNIE WALKER
In 1819, the story of Johnnie Walker starts
The year was 1819. The man of the moment was John Walker. Or, Johnnie, as the world now knows him. After the passing of his father, young John took a bold step for a young farm boy - he sold the family business and used to proceeds to set up a grocer in the bustling town of Kilmarnock, even taking the bold, dramatic step of importing pepper from Jamaica and tea from China.
In 1820 John Walker establishes the family business
In the early 19th Century, a dram of whisky was a staple of life in Scotland. However, the Scotch you enjoyed yesterday might taste different tomorrow. So, young John, the pioneer that he was, soon, began to blend whiskies together to create a consistent and unique product. What resulted was whiskies that eventually he & his sons was proud to put his name to.
In 1867 Alexander creates Old Highland Whisky
Alexander made the astute move of engaging ships in the nearby port of Glasgow, convincing the ship captains to carry the bottles bearing his father’s name around the world. A square bottle meant less breakages and more bottles per shipment. A slanted label, at 24 degrees, meant that Johnnie Walker commanded unrivalled presence on any shelf in the world. By 1867, the world had developing a taste for his father’s whisky, but young Alexander, like his father, was an ambitious soul. In the same year he introduced Old Highland Whisky - a blend of such rare craft and flavour that it changed the definition of whisky excellence. The famous square bottle is soon introduced and together with the iconic slanted label, angled at 24 degrees, John Walker & Sons whiskies commanded unrivalled presence on any shelf in the world.’
In 1879, awards around the world are being won
By 1879, Walker’s whiskies were winning awards around the world. The first came in Sydney, followed by a string of others at the great exhibitions of Jamaica, Paris, London, Brisbane and Brussels.
In 1893, Cardhu distillery is purchased
In 1893, the two brothers purchased the famous Cardhu distillery. This ensured a continuous supply of the silky single malt and, more importantly, ensured that rival blenders couldn’t get their hands on it.
New blends for new times
Aware that whisky is enjoyed differently in various parts of the world, Alexander II launches two new blends that proudly proclaim to be a Scotch whisky, even when mixed with ice, water or soda. Enter to the fray Special Old Highland Whisky, along with Extra Special Old Highland Whisky.
The striding man is born
The story goes that during a business lunch, Alexander II and George Walker, persuaded Tom Browne – the best young illustrator of the day – to pen a striding man on a napkin. The perfect launching point for a brand with the humblest of beginnings.
In 1909, red and black is launched
Alexander II and George rename their successful Special Old Highland whisky and Extra Special Old Highland whisky to the distinctive labels we know today. The iconic Red Label and Black Label were born.
One hundred years of striding
Fast forward 100 years from John Walker’s bold move to open a grocer in Kilmarnock and Johnnie’s walk had taken him through 120 countries, across all four corners of the world, famously travelling “Wherever ships could sail".
Royal seal of approval
On 1st January 1934, Johnnie Walker & Sons was issued a Royal Warrant by King George V to supply the royal household. An honour which Johnnie Walker continues to hold to this day.
In 1956, RED LABEL sales reach over 1 million
By 1956, over a century on from Alexander’s bright idea to engage the ship captains of Glasgow, the work of Alexander II & George saw Johnnie Walker conquer the world. For the first time, 1 million casks of Johnnie Walker Red Label were sold in a year.
In 1992, BLUE LABEL is launched
By the end of the 20th century, the now familiar Red Label, Black Label and Green Label were joined by the most iconic of them all, Johnnie Walker Blue Label. In the year of its release, it defined what a whisky could be. To this day, it still defines what a whisky should be.
Global campaign launched
At the turn of the century, Johnnie Walker launches its first global advertising campaign.
In 2011, Double Black Label is released
The world makes way for a new blend in the Johnnie Walker trademark, the multi-award winning Johnnie Walker Double Black Label from Master Blender, Jim Bedveridge. It’s just another example of our innovation that pioneers the liquid with intensive flavour.
In that same year, Johnnie Walker Master Blender, Jim Bedverdige, is inducted into the World Whiskies Awards Hall of Fame.
10 years in formula one
Johnnie Walker celebrates their 10th year as a Formula One’s sponsor – undoubtedly the only motorsport that can rival Johnnie Walker’s progressive outlook while striving to bring joy to millions.
Number one in the world
Johnnie Walker is, yet again, confirmed as the No.1 best-selling Scotch whisky in the world – an award received as early as 1956. Blue Label continues to rack up awards with a double gold medal at SF WCS 2016.
In 2016, Blender's Batch Red Rye launches
Almost 200 years after a young farm boy opened his shop in Kilmarnock, Johnnie Walker’s quest for innovation continues with the limited edition, Blender’s Batch – a range of one-off pioneering experiments. The first Red Rye Finish. A bold blend inspired by America, yet blended with the subtlety of Scotch and the craft of Johnnie Walker.