Money can’t buy happiness… but it can get you a bottle of Johnnie Walker, and they are alike!
Here’s the history of our favourite whisky, starting with the man behind the name. It was 1819, and John Walker’s father had recently died. Walker had no time for mourning, however. It was a different time back then, and the world was not friendly. He needed to earn a living. This all led to his family farm being sold and Walker opening his own grocer nearby the thriving town of Kilmarnock. He switched from dealing with all of the grocery and drinks to working mainly with whisky. The blending of grain and malt whiskies was banned back when, so he sold both blended malt whiskies and grain whiskies. These were all made-to-order, blended specifically to meet each customer’s own requirements. This was before Walker had his own brand– he began using his name on labels years later.
After he passed away in 1857, his brand had become popular and was left to his son, Alexander. This period following the Industrial Revolution was a time of great change in Britain, and there was now a railway line in Kilmarnock. This meant that goods could be sent to the big ships, which regularly took off to all four corners of the world. Alexander saw this as an opportunity and offered Johnnie Walker’s first commercial blend under the name ‘Old Highland.’ He then hired ships’ captains to bring the whisky wherever they sailed, which resulted in the blend becoming available around the world. It was then that he poured the whisky into the famous square bottles and added their familiar label with its incline of exactly 20 degrees. This all attributed to the whisky standing out as unique even more than it did.
The family name was passed down to Alexander II, his son, who with his brother George renamed the whisky to the colours of their labels– Johnnie Walker Red Label and Johnnie Walker Black Label. When Tom Browne, a young illustrator, was spotted sketching a logo at the back of a menu at lunch, the sons immediately took over the ‘Striding Man’ for their whisky. From the Victorian shopkeeper John Walker was now the Edwardian dandy Johnnie Walker. Today, Johnnie Walker stands as an international favourite and the largest whisky brand in the world.
How it’s made
Johnnie Walker produces more Scotch whisky than any other whisky producer in the world. They also have the largest reserves, so it makes sense that the amount of work and care they put into their production is exceptional.
The process starts with the grain. It contains a lot of starch that needs to be converted into soluble sugars that make alcohol. This is a natural process– germination. Hot water is then added to the mixture until germination begins. This is known as malting.
The germination is then interrupted by the drying of the sprouted grain (green malt) on a tray. This is sometimes done with the support of peat smoke, which provides flavour. The cereal is then ground up and mixed with water.
By mixing in the water, the sugars can be extracted. Then, the sweet liquid is drained and cooled. After the addition of yeast, the fermentation process begins and produces a kind of beer.
This beer is distilled twice more to reduce water content and increase alcohol and flavour concentration. During the distillation, the liquid is boiled in a copper container (the so-called ‘distillation bubble’). Some say that this ‘conversation between the copper and the liquid is the catalyst for the flavour.’
Finally, the distillate is filled into specially pretreated oak barrels to be matured for at least three years to later be known as Scotch whisky.
Now that you know all about the history and the process, you probably are interested in giving Johnnie Walker a walk yourself. We like to keep things more traditional here with our whisky at Drinkly, so we stock our two favourites– the timeless classics.
Johnnie Walker’s Black Label Whisky
- This whisky is a force to be reckoned with. It is created using only whiskies aged for a minimum of 12 years (all from Scotland). It has an unmistakably smooth, deep character.
Johnnie Walker’s Red Label Whisky
- The Red Label crackles with spice and bursts with its vibrant, smoky flavours. These are followed by mellow notes of vanilla, a fresh zestiness, and the signature Johnnie Walker lingering, smoky finish.
Just pop in your postcode above now and pick whichever one stands out the most to you. If you’re feeling adventurous, try both! We’ll have your choice delivered in under an hour– smooth, delicious, and ready to pour.