The Story Behind the Origin of Johnnie Walker

The Story Behind the Origin of Johnnie Walker - Country Wine & Spirits

The Story Behind the Origin of Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker whiskey is one of the oldest and most sold blended Scotch whiskies around the world, with its annual sales going over 130 million bottles per year. The “Keep Walking” slogan has been “embraced everywhere.” So just who is Johnnie Walker, and how did his whiskey become so popular?

You know the label, but who is Johnnie Walker?

Johnnie Walker

The Johnnie Walker brand came into existence when John Walker, an ordinary Scottish grocer, started his business in Ayrshire. He used multiple malts to make his whiskey consistently flavored. He created a new blended whisky, and named it “Walker Kilmarnock Whiskey.” This Scotch whiskey was quickly accepted all over the province.

The Legacy Continues

The Johnnie Walker origin continues after John’s death in 1857 when his son Alexander took over the business and introduced the first commercial whiskey blend to the world. He named it The Old Highland Whiskey. With the introduction of railways during the industrial revolution, the small town was able to transport goods to ships that were sailing to all corners of the world. 

The Brand Goes Global

Alexander saw this as a great opportunity to sell the whiskey globally and embarked on the venture of making Johnnie Walker history and expanding the franchise all over the world. Alexander was succeeded by his sons Alexander II, a master blender, and George, a master businessman. They further took the brand to heights of popularity and fame, making Johnnie Walker one of the oldest and most acclaimed blended whiskey franchises throughout the world today.

A Square Bottle with a Unique Label

As the whiskey continued to dominate the world, the Walkers created some unique innovations. A large part of the Johnnie Walker story is the distinctive bottle and label. The bottle was originally made square to reduce breakage during shipment. The label, slanted at a precise 20 degrees, makes the whiskey recognizable even from a distance.

“The Striding Man”

The early 1900s saw the introduction of an important part of Johnnie Walker history: The Striding Man. Created by cartoonist Tom Browne, a stylized version of the original still graces the bottle today. It marked the transition from being the whiskey of a Scottish grocer to being the whiskey of an Edwardian dandy.

A Royal Drink

Another amazing part of the Johnnie Walker origin occurred in January 1934 saw a Royal Warrant granted to the distillery to supply whiskey to the royal household. The Warrant is still in effect today, so if the venerable Queen Elizabeth feels like a wee dram at bedtime, it is undoubtedly Johnny Walker she is sipping.

Johnnie Walker Blue label

Blue label

The instantly recognizable labels of Johnny Walker whiskey are another part of the Johnnie Walker story. The original three blends became known by their red, black, and white labels. This naming tradition continues up to the present day.

A Whiskey Amongst Whiskies

Blue Label is the premium whiskey produced under the Johnnie Walker franchise. It is a blend of malt whiskies and grain whiskies from different distilleries with 40% alcohol content. The production of Johnnie Walker Blue Label started in 1992. Since then, every Blue Label bottle comes in a silk-lined box along with a certificate of authenticity and a serial number.

Why is Blue Label So Special?

Blue Label Scotch whiskey is aged longer than the average aging period, where it gets its properties from the cask used. Oak is mostly used for making whiskey barrels due to the presence of natural oils called vanillins. Blue label is formed using the oldest Walker casks, which impart the aged spirit its characteristic flavor.

For over 130 years the master distillers at Johnny Walker have been contributing innovation and passion to the Johnnie Walker story. The answer to the question “Who is Johnnie Walker” continues to be a fascinating one. In October of 2021, the distillery appointed its first female Master Blender, Dr. Emma Walker. The fascinating story continues…