The Johnnie Walker story

Making an icon

The story of Johnnie Walker and our whisky history begins, naturally enough, with the man who gave our whisky his name. In 1820, the young farmer’s son started his own grocer’s shop in the thriving town of Kilmarnock. His father had died the year before and the farm sold. It was a tough start in life, but there was always something special about John. A glint in his eye. A fire in his belly.

John had a natural gift for business. He also had a genius for whisky.

Within the year, the family farm had been sold and the money used to set him up with his own grocer’s shop in the thriving local town of Kilmarnock. It was a smart move. In those days, most grocers stocked a line of single malts, but they were never consistent. This wasn’t good enough for John. So he started blending them together to create a whisky that tasted just as good every time. 

It proved an extremely popular addition to the inventory.

When John passed away after a full and prosperous life in 1857, he left his son, Alexander, with a very healthy business. These were fast-moving times. Britain was the pulsating heart of an Industrial Revolution that was set to change absolutely everything. In Kilmarnock, the railway had arrived, carrying goods to great ships travelling to the four corners of the world. Like his father, Alexander knew a good opportunity when he saw one.

A timeline of our history
186701/05
Alexander introduced the iconic slanted label and square bottle to be distinctive and stand out of the shelf
190802/05
When Tom Browne created the Striding Man, Alexander’s sons, Alexander II and George, wanted a symbol for the energetic brand they’d created. A leading illustrator, Tom Browne, sketched the Striding Man figure for them. They renamed their whiskies after the label colours and Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label were born.
192003/05
Johnnie Walker whisky is available in 120 countries and becomes part of global culture. It’s immortalised by songwriters and filmmakers, idolised by socialites and movie stars, enjoyed by statesmen. In 1934, John Walker & Sons was granted a Royal Warrant by King George V.
20th century04/05
The pioneering Johnnie Walker Red Label and iconic Johnnie Walker Black Label are joined by the exquisitely crafted Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The range continues to grow with the addition of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve.
Today05/05
Johnnie Walker is the biggest whisky brand in the world. Its slogan is adopted and embraced everywhere, as a rallying cry for progress, encouragement in adversity and an expression of optimism. It continues to make whiskies that push boundaries.
Discover the
home of
johnnie
walker in
edinburgh and
experience
200 years in
history.