Johnnie Walker has rolled out new limited-edition blended Scotch whiskies that speak volumes of its rich liquid heritage, relentless quest for layered flavour and commitment to innovation.
Enjoying the world’s bestselling Scotch whisky has become a global ritual since 1820 when budding entrepreneur Johnnie Walker started crafting and selling his blended whiskies in Scotland.
Walker, who had lost his father just a year earlier, sold the family farm and opened a grocer’s in Kilmarnock selling teas and spices imported from the New World. Walker’s quest for unique flavours and subtle notes resulted in his experimentation with different tea blends. The newly acquired skills would later prove extremely useful in his whisky-blending career.
His whisky blends were carefully balanced with characteristically big bold flavour profiles. Soon after the unique products struck the public as a standout in the market awash with raw uneven alcohol. These exclusive blends – sold only to his favoured customers including directors of the business – became the treasured whiskies for the select few. Over time the supreme whiskies were available not only at his Kilmarnock shop but across Scotland and England, and eventually in the four corners of the world.
In 1920, exactly a century after Walker began his family venture, his whiskies were being sold in more than 120 countries worldwide – an achievement summed up in the strap line of their 1920 travel guide, ‘Around the World’, which read: “We sailed wherever ships could sail”.
Given the brand’s phenomenon global success, the company was granted a Royal Warrant, by King George V, in 1934. It was an honour that would also be bestowed by subsequent British Monarchs. For the first time in 1956, Johnnie Walker Red Label case sales alone reached over 1 million for the first time.
Thailand is integral to Johnnie Walker’s success story, with the brand’s prominent presence in this country since 1924. Thailand is also the strongest market for Johnnie Walker in Asean. More than half the sales contribution in Asia-Pacific comes from Thailand.
In 2012, Thailand was ranked third among the 180 markets for Johnnie Walker whisky sales for the third consecutive year thanks to the country’s growing demand from ever expanding middle-class customers. The Thais’ consumption of Johnnie Walker is high, only trailing behind only the United States and Brazil.
Globally the Johnnie Walker whiskies are regarded as the epitome of blending excellence.
In its quest for layered flavour, hundreds of new flavour experiments are being carried out at any one time by the Johnnie Walker blending team in Scotland. Leading the team is Master Blender Jim Beveridge, who’s part of Johnnie Walker’s unbroken lineage of blending excellence dating back to the 19th century.
Today he upholds the Walker family’s belief that the art of blending demonstrates an unparalleled commitment to the pursuit of flavour by continuing to select whiskies from the four corners of Scotland and skillfully blending them together to create the signature taste of Johnnie Walker whiskies.
Beveridge ensures that the big, bold whiskies in the Johnnie Walker family each share a common core of balance, power and depth of flavour while retaining an individual character to satisfy the needs of every whisky consumer and occasion.
The classic blends testify to the brand’s drive for not only constant product innovation, but also artistic collaborations.
The famous “Striding Man” – now the brand’s logo – was created in 1908 by Tom Browne, one of Britain’s famous cartoonists at the time, originally on the back of a menu card just over lunch with Lord Stevenson, one of the brand’s directors. Browne went on to produce a series of adverts for the brand.
Given the English love affair with caricature, Johnnie Walker spent the best part of the 20th century seeking out the best cartoonists for its advertising campaign.
After Browne came Sir Bernard Partridge. The principal cartoonist for “Punch” magazine drew the character for the brand’s adverts until the start of the First World War.
During the war, Leo Cheney came up with a series of patriotic adverts, along the way creating what turned out to be the most famous “Striding Man” version of the Johnnie Walker character. Cheney turned the original figure into a rounder and more sociable one. Between 1927 and 1928 the Striding Man smiled with a flash of wry humour in the adverts created by Doris Zinkeisen.
But it wasn’t until Clive Uptton, a cartoonist at the Daily Mail, became the brand’s principal artist in 1939 that the Striding Man was reduced to just a logo for the first time in his “Gentlemen! Your Johnnie Walker” ad campaign.
The legendary artists’ legacy of artistic innovation remains intact to this day and continues to evolve, as evidenced by the brand’s new releases.
The Johnnie Walker Black Label Limited Edition and the Johnnie Walker Red Label Limited Edition reflect the brand’s passion for art. These Limited Edition sets mark another artistic collaboration, this time between the brand’s Master Blender Jim Beveridge and world-renowned Polish illustrator and designer Pawel Nolbert. The latter has created iconic designs for brands like Google, Apple, Adobe, Nike, Sony, Polaroid, Mercedes-Benz and Microsoft.
The two men brought the complexity and boldness in taste and colour of the limited-edition set to life through art. The illustrator designed the art on the two whiskies’ packaging that reflects the bold, energetic and spicy character of the Red Label as crafted by the master blender, as well as the bold and balanced complexity of the Black Label.
Johnnie Walker’s quest for subtle flavours is also demonstrated through another new release, the Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Red Rye Finish.
This is the first of a series of experiments that Johnnie Walker recently released to explore a range of new blends. Blender teams explored 203 whisky samples with 50 approaches for this blend before the discovery of the perfect balance. The result is the best mix between the smoky flavour of Johnnie Walker and the sweet and vanilla notes of rye of American whisky.
Inspired by the polar explorers that venture to the fringes of the planet the polar extremes, the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Limited Edition beautifully exemplifies the story of our perfect serve: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve served ice cold over ice.
Another limited-edition blend is the Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Karman Line 2016 with a rare, unique depth of flavour, inspired by the Karman Line – the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space where atmospheric gases scatter the blue wavelengths of visible light more than other wavelengths, giving the earth’s visible edge a blue halo.