The Johnnie Walker Story

There are scores of Scotch Whisky brands on the shelves but till today the best seller is Johnnie Walker.

This is the story of Johnnie Walker.

John Walker

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Johnnie Walker was born on 25th July 1805 on Todriggs farm, East Ayrshire, Scotland. John Walker’s father died in 1819. It was a bit of a shock for the young farmland. There was something different about Johnnie; a glint in the eye; a hunger in the belly. He decided there was little time for grieving. A lot needed to be done.

John sold the farm and all assets and opened a grocery in the nearby prosperous town of Kilmarnock. John had a head for business and this move was smart. 

Around this time the rigid Excise Act of 1823 was relaxed allowing the distillation and sale of alcohol. John also had a head for whisky. On taking a round of other groceries he found they all boasted a motley collection. John went a step ahead; he blended his whisky brand so that the taste was singularly good every time. It proved to be a masterstroke. He called his blend Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky.

In 1852 a disastrous flood swept the area destroying many businesses including John’s. He overcame this setback and was doing well once again. John passed away in 1857 after a prosperous and full life. The business now quite healthy passed to his son Alexander.

The Origins of Scotch Whisky

The Gaelic term ‘uisge beatha’, or ‘usquebaugh’, means ‘water of life’, (aqua vitae) from which whisky has its roots. Gaelic is the form of Celtic spoken in the Scot Highlands.

The First Distillation of Scotch Whisky 

Whisky is a product of barley. There is some evidence that the distillation process was introduced to Scotland by Christian missionary monks but there is little proof that Highland farmers did not figure out how to distill spirits from barley.

Alexander Walker Takes Johnnie Walker Global

The times were moving ahead at a rapid pace. The Industrial revolution had arrived in Great Britain and change was all around even at Kilmarnock. The railroad arrived in 1843 and carried goods to the ships at the docks and thence on all over the world. By 1862 Johnnie Walker was shipping 100,000 gallons worldwide.

Alexander saw a great opportunity in the situation. He launched Johnnie Walker’s first commercial blend in 1867 calling it “Old Highland Whisky.” By engaging ship captains as his agents, his commodity soon reached all corners of the world.

Next, he changed the bottle’s design to square, considerably saving breakage. He also pasted the label at an eye-catching 24° which was a marketing coup as it stood out.

How Johnnie Walker Turned Into An English Squire

Keep Walking-The Story of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky
The English Dandy

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In 1889, Alexander passed the baton to his sons Alexander II and George. Alexander II was a master blender and his brother George was a master businessman., it was a deadly combination.

In 1909, they named their distinctive brand Johnnie Walker and the labels grade colored, red, black, and so on. The stable kept growing- Blue, Double Black, Gold, and Platinum.

The final touch was by Tom Browne, a young illustrator who sketched the design of this English dandy during lunch at the back of a menu which was instantly adopted by Johnnie Walker. The Victorian grocer was now the English sophisticate.

Johnnie Walker Embraces The Peak

By 1920, 120 countries were selling Johnny Walker. It was a part of global culture pushed by socialites, songwriters, and filmmakers to its vintage.

On 1st January 1934, John Walker and Sons were granted a Royal Warrant by King George V which is still in place.

In Conclusion

Today, Johnnie Walker remains a best-seller. Its byline, Keep Walking has become the rallying cry for advancement, encouragement in adversity, and the joyful expression of optimism.

Its the best piece of advice.

Johnnie Walker is now owed by Diegeo, a British alcohol company.

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