The story of Johnnie Walker starts with the man who gave the whiskey its name, John Walker. The year was 1819 and John’s father had just died. Within a year, the family farm had been sold, and John set up his own grocer’s shop in Kilmarnock. As well as a natural gift for business, he also had a genius for whiskey. The single malts sold in those days were never particularly consistent, so John started blending them together so his whiskey tasted just as good every time.
When John finally passed away in 1857, he left his son, Alexander a very healthy business. The Industrial Revolution brought the railway to Kilmarnock, carrying good to the great ships that had regular routes to four corners of the world. In 1867, Alexander launched the first Johnnie Walker commercial blend and engaged ships’ captains as his agents to carry his whisky wherever ships could sail. Shortly after that, Alexander began using the famous square bottle to reduce breakages. He also added the distinctive label, slanted at precisely 20 degrees, to make it stand out even further from the crowd.
The Walker name passed on to Alexander’s sons, Alexander II and George. In 1909, the brothers renamed their successful range of whiskies after the colors of their distinctive labels. Johnnie Walker Red Label and Johnnie Walker Black Label were born. The striding man was designed by Tom Browne, who sketched the idea for a logo on the back of a menu during lunch.
On January 1, 1934, John Walker & Sons was granted a Royal Warrant by King George V to supply whisky to the royal household, that warrant that they still hold today.
Johnnie Walker is the biggest whisky brand in the world. Their award-winning range continues to grow, with the addition of Johnnie Walker Blue Label and then Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve.