FROM WHITE TO BLUE
Johnnie Walker is a brand of Scotch whisky now owned by Diageo that originated from the Scottish town of Kilmarnock, a large burgh in East Ayrshire, where the brand's creator, John Walker began making and distilling the whisky in his grocery, wine and spirits shop located in the town centre. It is the most widely distributed brand of blended Scotch whisky in the world, sold in almost every country, with annual sales of the equivalent of over 223.7 million 700 ml bottles in 2016 (156.6 million litres).
With the advancement of technology and the ability to monitor operations in real time on a global basis, the brand's owners, Diageo, found that a restructuring programme was required across Scotland with a view to upgrade and expand bottling capacity in anticipation of future growth in demand for its brands, including an evergrowing portfolio of Johnnie Walker blends. Analyses showed that production in the brand's original home in Kilmarnock would need to be moved to Diageo plants in Leven, Fife and Shieldhall, Glasgow. On 1 July 2009, Diageo announced that it intended to cease production at the plant in Kilmarnock. Protests at every level notwithstanding, the Johnnie Walker plant situated in Hill Street in Kilmarnock closed its doors in March 2012. (See Closure in Kilmarnock, Scotland below)
When John Walker, born on 25 July 1805, lost his farmer father in 1819, the family sold the farm and their trustees invested the proceeds, £417, in an Italian warehouse, grocery, and wine and spirits shop on High Street in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. John managed the grocery, wine and spirits segment as a teenager in 1820. The Excise Act of 1823 relaxed unduly strict laws on distillation of whisky and reduced, by a considerable amount, the extremely heavy taxes on the distillation and sale of whisky. By 1825, young John Walker, a teetotaller, was selling spirits, including rum, brandy, gin and Islay whisky.
In short order, he switched to dealing mainly in whisky. Since blending of grain and malt whiskies was still banned, he was selling vatted (blended) malt whiskies and grain whiskies. He sold Campbeltown whisky from the Kintyre Peninsula; characteristic snorters from the Inner Hebridean Island of Islay, with their pungent, peaty and smoky flavours; ‘Glenlivat’ (sic) Speyside whisky and patent still, or ‘grain’ whisky. They were sold as made-to-order whiskies, blended to meet specific customer requirements because he didn’t have any brand of his own(see Marketing below). It took him thirty years to realise that he was missing out on a golden opportunity to concoct his own brew and earn a name in the market. John first sold his self-created and distilled malt whisky as late as 1850, only seven years before his death in 1857. Interestingly, none of these brands was called Scotch whisky; they were listed by region of production.
Originally known as Walker's Kilmarnock Whisky, the Johnnie Walker brand is a legacy left by John "Johnnie" Walker after he started to sell whisky in his grocer's shop in Kilmarnock. The brand became popular, but after Walker's death, it was his son Alexander ‘Alec’ Walker and grandson Alexander Walker II who were largely responsible for establishing the whisky as a favoured brand. Under British Prime Minister Henry J Temple, Chancellor of the Exchequer William E Gladstone’s Spirits Act of 1860 became crucial to the fortunes of the Scotch whisky industry, which boasted 111 operational distilleries in 1868, as it allowed for the first time the blending of spirits under bond without payment of duty, the storage of blended spirits in vats, and the filling of casks with blended spirit in bond. This Act ushered in the modern era of what is known as blended Scotch whisky. The one caveat was that under Section VI of the new Act, it would be applicable to distillers only, creating a furore amongst Vintners and grocers who were also blending and selling spirituous liquor. They were permitted three years later in an extension to the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty of 1860 on tariffs on trade between France and England. This Anglo-French free trade agreement reduced cross-tariffs between French wine, brandy and Cognac versus gin and whisky and came into effect on 23 January 1860. Surprisingly, the Johnnie Walker brands of whisky did not use the term Scotch till as late as 1939, whereas Matthew Gloag III, of The Famous Grouse fame, did use the term decades earlier, in 1896-97. Andrew Usher, a brewer and small-scale distiller of Edinburgh, Scotland, was the first in the industry to capitalise on blending malt and grain whiskies starting officially in 1860, producing a more accessible whisky that was lighter and sweeter in character, making it much more marketable to a wider audience, followed by the Walkers officially in 1863.
Alexander Walker introduced the brand's signature square bottle in 1860. This meant more bottles fitting the same space and fewer broken bottles. The other identifying characteristic of the Johnnie Walker bottle was- and still is- the label, which, since that year, is applied at an angle of 24 degrees upward from left to right and allows text to be made larger and more visible. There were no advertisements-as presently understood- at the time, other than by word of mouth and pages pasted on billboards at the town centre and it was essential that the whisky's growing following could identify it at a distance. One major factor in his favour was the arrival of the railway in Kilmarnock, carrying goods to ships plying regularly to the four corners of the world. Thanks to Alec's business acumen, sales of Walker's Kilmarnock hit 100,000 gallons (450,000 Litres) per year by 1862.
|CARDHU DISTILLERY IN 1893|
|The 1st Striding Man R>L|
Soon thereafter, the re-branding was finalised and kept simple, in that the public-identified names were retained. In 1909, The Old Highland 5 YO was renamed the Johnnie Walker White Label, now a 6 YO; the Special Old Highland 9YO became the Johnnie Walker Red Label 10 YO and the Extra Special Old Highland was renamed Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 YO.
|The 1999 Striding Man L>R|
Closure in Kilmarnock, Scotland
Double Black Label Limited Edition – Featuring 12 black and white photographs selected from across the world that represent a vast range of emotion and humanity pasted on the bottle / printed on its cover. Contents remain unchanged.
Bottles of some Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky looked a little different from March 1, 2018, with the brand’s famous striding man was replaced in the US by a woman, Jane Walker. The Johnnie Walker Black Label Jane Walker Edition bottles are available there, with Diageo donating $1 from each sold to organisations championing women’s causes. Jane Walker is a toast the many achievements of women and everyone on the journey towards progress in gender equality.
GAME OF THRONES SERIES
Patrons of Johnnie Walker Houses enjoy exclusive personal service, meals and drinks, the famous Whisky Tasting Course, access to a Scotland trip concierge and the right to attend and host private luxurious events at flagship locations. Membership as a patron of Johnnie Walker House is by invitation only.
The Johnnie Walker House Art Collection – Mumbai Edition is exclusively available at Johnnie Walker House Mumbai. This very special bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label celebrates the opening of Johnnie Walker’s first retail showcase at Mumbai Airport. It shows a unique ‘willow pattern’ interpretation of the whisky’s original journey from Scotland to India in 1883. The British Raj was evidently fond of its Scotch.
201. Johnnie Walker Game of Thrones Series: ttps://www.johnniewalker.com/en/our-whisky/limited-edition-whiskies/white-walker-johnnie-walker/