Johnnie Walker celebrates 200-year journey

Feature

Iconic Scotch brand Johnnie Walker is celebrating 200 years since founder John Walker first threw open the doors to a small grocery store in rural Scotland in 1820, beginning a journey that took Johnnie Walker whiskies to the four corners of the world.

John’s spark, vision and entrepreneurial fire were the impetus to a hugely successful business and ultimately a new future for Scotch whisky. Today, Johnnie Walker whisky is sold in over 180 countries and is the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world.[1] Over the last 200 years Johnnie Walker has been defined by its dedication to quality and its commitment to progress - symbolised by the famous Striding Man logo.

“The Johnnie Walker brand is truly one which has stood the test of time, and the knowledge that Johnnie Walker cuts across cultures, borders, languages, and tastes is a humbling thought. Everyone who works on Johnnie Walker is dedicated to upholding our reputation for quality and continuing our founder’s spirit of innovation. This 200-year milestone allows us to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come already, as well as what more we want to achieve in the next 200 years.”

Julie Bramham
Julie Bramham

Global Brand Director for Johnnie Walker

This year and into 2021, Johnnie Walker will be marking this incredible milestone with a series of exciting cultural events, exclusive limited-edition product releases and the opening of a new multi-sensory, immersive Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh.

The new Johnnie Walker experience, which is part of a wider £185 million Diageo investment into Scotch whisky tourism, will guide visitors through the 200-year history of Johnnie Walker and take them on a journey through the flavours of Scotland. Rooftop bars will provide visitors with stunning views of Edinburgh Castle and across the city skyline.

Johnnie Walker also welcomed the release of four exclusive new Johnnie Walker limited editions hitting shelves globally. Each exclusive release - a new bottle design and three newly crafted whiskies - is a celebration of the incredible journey, pioneering spirit and dedication to quality that was started by John back in those early days.

Johnnie Walker has also unveiled three new limited-edition bottles for its iconic Johnnie Walker Red Label, Johnnie Walker Black Label and Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve whiskies. Each one is a bold and eye-catching reimagining of the classic Johnnie Walker square bottle, fit for the 200th Anniversary.

Next month, the Discovery Channel will air a feature documentary directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Anthony Wonke exploring what has led Johnnie Walker to become an icon in popular culture. And Canongate Books have recently announced the publication of A Long Stride by Nicholas Morgan, a book charting the remarkable story of how Johnnie Walker became the world’s number one Scotch[2].

““Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Johnnie Walker journey is such a proud moment for us all. The company was pioneered by three generations of the Walker family and those who followed in their footsteps, and the business continues to embrace their distinctive spirit. In looking back and celebrating the first steps John Walker took when he founded the business, we are inspired to look forward to the next 200 years as we honour the legacy of John and his family’s achievements and open the door to new possibilities in Scotch for Johnnie Walker.”

Christine McCafferty
Christine McCafferty

Archive Manager at Diageo

[1] IWSR 2020

[2] IWSR 2020

Key Milestones

 

  • 1820 – The doors to John Walker’s grocery shop are opened and the Johnnie Walker story begins 
  • 1857– John’s son Alexander takes over the business following John’s death and transforms the company
  • 1860s – First commercial blend ‘Old Highland Whisky’ created and slanted labels introduced
  • 1870s – The business becomes one of the first to produce whisky in square bottles, changing from the original round bottles
  • 1906 – White, Red and Black Label variants available
  • 1908 – The ‘Striding Man’ figure is drawn by renowned cartoonist Tom Browne, and the first time the business formally adopts the name Johnnie Walker
  • 1920 – Johnnie Walker whisky available in over 120 countries
  • 1934 – John Walker & Sons granted a Royal Warrant by King George V to supply whisky to the royal household, an honour still held today
  • 1945 to 1955 - Johnnie Walker’s exports increased by 115 per cent to just over 1 million cases
  • 1982 – Johnnie Walker appears in the original Blade Runner movie
  • 1992 – Johnnie Walker Blue Label launches, an exquisite combination of Scotland’s rarest and most exceptional whiskies
  • 1999 – First ever Johnnie Walker global advertising campaign ‘Keep Walking’ launches
  • 1999-2007 – Bottles of Johnnie Walker make regular appearances in The Sopranos, including an episode in which Salvatore Bonpensiero gives a bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label as a gift
  • 2005 – Johnnie Walker Green Label is launches, crafted from a palette of Speyside, Highland, Lowland and Island malts matured for at least 15 years
  • 2007 – Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve launches, a tribute to the harmonious partnership of Speyside and Highland whiskies, with just a hint of smouldering embers from the West Coast
  • 2013 – Johnnie Walker sells 20 million cases for the first time.
  • 2017 – Johnnie Walker appears in the Blade Runner sequel Blade Runner 2049
  • 2018 – Johnnie Walker collaborates with HBO to launch White Walker by Johnnie Walker
  • 2018 – Diageo announces biggest single investment in Scotch whisky tourism which includes the creation of a new state-of-the-art Johnnie Walker immersive visitor experience based in Edinburgh
  • 2019 – Johnnie Walker Master Blender Dr Jim Beveridge receives an OBE for services to Scotch
  • 2020 – All six Johnnie Walker variants tasted at this year's International Spirits Challenge received gold medals
  • 2020 – Plans to release new environmentally-friendly paper bottle announced - set to debut in early 2021 to be the world’s first 100% plastic free paper-based spirits' bottle