The Story of Johnnie Walker

The world’s best selling Scotch has a fascinating history.

Johnnie Walker was originally called Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky. It was a blended whisky and a direct response to the John Walker’s displeasure at the inconsistency of the single malts of the day. Walker open and operated his grocery store from age 14, from proceeds he got after selling his father’s farm.

John Walker

After John’s death in 1857, his son Alexander took over the family grocery store and blending. Following the success of his blend in the shop, he convinced ship captains to sell the whisky wherever their ships sailed. The shape of the bottle was designed to pack more bottles on the ship and reduced breakage. The slanted labels at 24 degrees on the bottle were chosen to make the bottle stand out.

Alexander Walker

In 1865, Alexander created Old Highland Malt Whisky and registered the trademark. This was one of the first trademarked whiskies in Scotland. Alexander Walker died in 1865 after his blend won its first medal at the International Exhibition in Australia.

Old Highland Malt Whisky Label

Alexander II and George P. Walker took over the family business in 1889 purchasing Cardhu distillery to protect one of the main malts in creating Highland Malt Whisky. In 1908 the striding man logo was commissioned and rumoured to be first drawn by illustrator Tom Browne on a napkin. In 1909 the Highland Malt whiskies were renamed Johnnie Walker and included a short lived Johnnie Walker White Label 6 Year Old.

The First Striding Man

The 1900s were full of expansion including the company going public in 1925, and receiving a royal warrant from King George V in 1932. The Johnnie Walker Swing with its iconic bottle shape was released for travel retail in 1935 and the iconic Johnnie Walker Blue was first released in 1992.

Check out the video below for a quick history released as part of the international campaign Keep Walking.

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