The Name Behind The Labels

So you like your Talisker, your Caol Ila, your Cragganmore. Some of you may even be partial to a wee dram of Linkwood now and again. Would it surprise you if I told you all four of these feature in one of my all time favorite blended Scotches?

I wonder if the character depicted here could have ever imagined just how incredibly huge a success the whisky bearing his name could become? This whisky is the most widely distributed brand of blended Scotch in the world. It’s sold in almost every country, with yearly sales of over 130 million bottles. In 2011 the brand sold over 1 million cases in the United States alone. This is, of coarse, is the image created to be emblazoned across the front of the Johnnie Walker Blended Scotch bottles from the entry level “Red” through to the prestigious “Blue” and beyond into the many special celebratory bottlings that have been created over the years.

John (Johnnie) Walker was a Scottish grocer born in 1805 near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, Scotland. When his father died in 1820 he was left a £417 trust which was invested in a grocery and spirits shop on the High Street Kilmarnock. It was in this shop that Walker created his first whisky brand known as Walker’s Kilmarnock. So it is 1820 that is used as the born date for Johnnie Walker but it wasn’t until after his death in 1857 that the label Johnnie Walker Black Label was created by his son Alexander Walker.

Love, hate or on the fence about Johnnie Walker, there is no doubt that the whisky is solid through out the range, and without blended whiskies like this, many of pour beloved single malt distilleries would have been mothballed many, many years ago. To this day as much as ninety percent plus of the single malt made in Scotland still goes directly into blends. That is an incredible figure, and Diageo, the owners of Johnnie Walker, secure their supply by purchasing and owning the single malt distilleries that are the key ingredients in their ever so important blends. Caol Ila on Islay for example which has this wonderfully seaweed estuary character is a very important component in Black & Double Black.

My personal favorite Johnnie Walker is the Green Label. This is a blended malt which is a blend of only single malt (no neutral grain whisky). It created using Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila and others. Each malt used has had a minimum of 15 years ageing. Unfortunately the Green Label has been scheduled to be discontinued so get some whilst you can!

The Nose: wonderfully rich and full notes of coffee and chocolate. The Palate: medium bodied honey, salted toffee and malted cereal quality. The Finish: nice and long with spicy oak and a honey sweetness.

When you get your bottle, pour yourself a dram and raise a glass to one of the most important characters in Scotch history.

Cheers Johnnie!


About Author

I moved here from UK in February 2011 leaving my job as a community bobby in Surrey. By the end of May that year I had joined the team at Astor Wines & Spirits turning my love of Whisky & Wine into work. My first whisky love is single malt, which started as a 18 year old when my local Pub landlord introduced me to Macallan 12. I am also extremely passionate about American whiskey which is an amazing category. I love travel and have white water rafted in New Zealand, Argentina & Canada.