A world-famous whisky that is now sold in almost every country.
The brand’s roots date back to 19th century when John Walker, a farmer’s son, was left to manage the store he inherited from his father at the age of 15 in the little town of Kilmarnock in west Scotland. In the 1820s, Scotland was going through a time of great change. People relocated from rural to urban areas, Europe was exhausted from Napoleonic Wars, transnational trade was at a standstill, and there was a shortage of French brandy in Scotland. The time of Scotch whisky began – farmers who only used to make whisky for their own use now became highly esteemed people. Unfortunately, the quality of their whiskies was unstable.
John Walker, however, was business-savvy: since there was an increasing demand for quality whisky, he decided, in addition to selling tea, spices, wine and groceries, to try his hand at blending malt whiskies. Soon after, whisky blending became his passion and, in 1850, he started making his own whisky, naming it Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky.
John’s son Alexander, who took over the business after his father died, is nowadays being compared to Bill Gates. In Kilmarnock, the railway had arrived, connecting the town to the port. Alexander switched to dealing only in whisky. In 1867, he launched the Old Highland Whisky, and made a good business deal with ship captains, hiring them to act as brand ambassadors to export their whisky around the world.
The captains agreed to this deal because they were allowed to retain part of the proceeds. The whisky blend created by Alexander quickly reached all major ports in the world. From a marketing standpoint, he made two important changes: he began using the famous square bottle to ensure that the whisky arrived intact at its destination, and added the distinctive label, slanted at precisely 20 degrees, to make it stand out even further from the rest. By the time Alexander Walked died in 1889, their little grocery shop had become a bustling whisky business of an international calibre.
The business was passed on to his two sons, one of whom was mainly concerned with the business side of the company, while the other was a brilliant blender.
In 1908, the owners commissioned the famous illustrator Tom Browne to create a symbol for their brand. The illustrator sketched the Striding Man figure for them. This iconic figure is what distinguished Johnnie Walker from other Scotch whisky producers, whose symbol was a bearded Scottish man in a kilt playing the bagpipes.
They, however, had chosen a striding man – a logo that everyone can identify with, no matter the location. The Black and Red Label whiskies released in 1909 already featured the new Striding Man logo.
By 1920s, the Johnnie Walker whisky blends had travelled from Scotland to 120 countries across the globe. In 1934, Johnnie Walker received its first Royal Warrant, which is a mark of recognition to those who supply goods or services to a royal court or certain royal personages.
Johnnie Walker became a Diageo brand in 1997, and, as a flagship of Scotch whisky, has travelled across the globe, gaining recognition everywhere. There are nearly 200 countries in the world, and Johnnie Walker is sold in more than 180 of them.
The product range of Johnnie Walker includes five distinctive labels.
WHY JOHNNIE WALKER?
Blending new flavours is an integral part of Johnnie Walker. John Walker’s first experiments with blending whisky were with flavours inspired by teas and spices from the new world, and today, Master Blender Dr. Jim Beveridge boldly blends tradition with innovation – the result is always of the highest quality.
All blends are inspired by the distinctive flavours of the four corners of Scotland. Each blend has its own depth and balance of flavour, and each label offers a special, highly nuanced taste.
Square bottles, slanted labels, and different colours to distinguish between flavours – all of this makes the brand’s bottles instantly recognisable.
The brand is 200 years old but still going strong. What could be a better symbol for a company seeking to reinvent the old and to push the boundaries through innovation, than a striding man?