February 6, 2007

Johnnie Walker

And the man behind the brand is...
John Walker

Like so many other shopkeepers in Scotland in 1820 John Walker devised a method where a lady could obtain liquor without being seen patronizing a bar. Walker built his trade in the district around his King Street shop in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. When the railway out of Glasgow built through Kilmarnock on its way to England Walker’s business grew further.

Walker survived a ruinous flood in 1852, maintaining his trade until his son Alexander returned from school in Glasgow to join the firm. Alexander sold his whisky to ship captains who re-sold it in ports around the world. He blended as many as 40 single malt whiskys to such acclaim that the Walkers were selling 100,000 gallons of scotch whisky a year by the mid-1860s. In Scotland it sold as Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky; when exported it was Old Highland.

The world learned the name Johnnie Walker in 1908. A poster painted by artist Tom Brown depicted a striding man with top hat and cane was adopted as a logo by John Walker & Sons. To accompany the dapper man on the label the company adopted the name of the founder, Johnnie Walker. His name, along with the slogan “Born 1820, still going strong,” still identifies the scotch whisky in the rectangular bottles.

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