Ever the popular spirit, demand for whisky grows exponentially each year with new distilleries and fans on the quest for the perfect bottle. Perhaps no brand understands the sustained demand for “water of life” more than the whisky makers at Johnnie Walker, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2020.
Avid whisky enthusiasts may know John Walker’s incredible entrepreneurial journey, from opening his humble Kilmarnock grocery store in 1820 to becoming one of the world’s most famed whisky labels. But what underscores Walker’s history is not merely the continuous success of the label but Walker’s own ingenuity.
In the 1800s, single malt whiskies were known for their inconsistent flavour and lack of balance – one week they may taste wonderful, the next like pure alcohol – rousing Walker experiment with blending different single malts together, becoming one of the first to pioneer blended Scotch whisky and producing some of the best in its category. The blended whisky proved to be very popular and by 1867, Walker created his first commercial blend, ‘Old Highland Whisky’.
In another genius move, Walker cleverly shared the Old Highland blend with ship captains who would carry his whisky around the globe. It was a watershed for Walker and the rest is history — a rich 200 year history. To herald the brand’s 200th anniversary, four special edition bottles have been released, with the John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend taking direct inspiration from the original OG whisky.
“The blend’s unique strength is similar to that of our Old Highland Whisky sold during that era,” explains Johnnie Walker Master Blender, Jim Beveridge, whose own 40-year career with the brand has elevated and cemented the label as one of Scotland’s most defining distilleries.
Inspired by the unique flavors that could be found in the 1860s, Beveridge and his small team of whisky makers even used whiskies from distilleries that were operating at the time of John Walker’s life to create the singular Celebratory Blend. The blend also has a distinctly higher ABV of 51% compared to the normal 40%, a move to mimic popular whiskies available back in the 1800s.
Interweaving heritage and innovation is perhaps what Johnnie Walker is best at. While the Celebratory Blend, and each of the releases in the 200th Limited Edition series, are a tasteful nod to the future, they are just as much an homage to the brand’s notable past. This blend in particular utilises notes from the stock books of the Walker family’s grocery store with archives of recipes to create a highly collectable new Johnnie Walker whisky altogether, one that can tell the story of John Walker through even a single glass.
Housed in a special limited package, which reveals the only image of John Walker’s small grocery store in Kilmarnock, the John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend is not just an exceptional whisky but a veritable piece of the history of Johnnie Walker – and whisky itself.
Whisky drinkers searching for an intricate yet rich blend will find this a covetable new addition to their collection.
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