Celebrating 200 years of our Johnnie Walker story from the Diageo Archive – Scotch Whisky News

Celebrating 200 years of our Johnnie Walker story from the Diageo Archive

Hear from our Archive Manager Christine McCafferty on what documents dating back to the 1820s can tell us about the Johnnie Walker story so far

Johnnie Walker is such an iconic brand, with a truly special story, and it’s an honour to be celebrating 200 years since it all began.

A big anniversary is of course a great opportunity to tell our brand story, but who needs that excuse. It’s something that I have been privileged enough to do on a daily basis since becoming the Archive Manager for Diageo 23 years ago – to everybody and anybody who will listen. And it’s a great story to tell, so who wouldn’t want to hear it. And we learn so much from understanding the origins of a brand and its journey, what makes the brand unique and what makes it tick.

There’s so much wealth in the Johnnie Walker brand story. It all goes back to John and the grocery shop that was opened in 1820 in Kilmarnock. This is where John started selling and blending his own whiskies for his customers. This is the beginning of an amazing story of 3 generations of the Walker family that we have continued through to today. It’s a story of an obsession with quality, the Walker’s would never compromise on this and neither would we, and, it’s a story of the pursuit of flavour, all to give consumer’s the best scotch whisky. It’s a story of being distinctive, always wanting to stand out from the crowd, of introducing a slanted label, moving to a square bottle, and, creating one of the most famous whisky icons in the Striding Man figure. It’s a story about taking our product around the world, making it not just the number one selling scotch whisky, but the one enjoyed in every part of the globe. It’s a story about perseverance, surviving the bad times and coming back stronger again each time. And it’s a story of forward momentum, always looking forward and what comes next, with Keep Walking as the perfect mantra. I could add words like pioneering, experimental, innovative, confident, bold, brave, ambitious – all perfect to describe Johnnie Walker and those that have created it and worked on the brand. It’s unique, it has a special place in culture, in people’s life’s – and everyone has a story to tell.

And my story is all about the amazing content we have in our industry leading Archive and how I share this to not only to build the brand story, but to bring it to life. It is a real privilege to be able to access original documentation right back to the time of John Walker and to see what insights they can give us into the brand story and DNA. Here’s a couple of my favourite items from the Archive:

John Walker’s grocery shop stock inventory, 1825 This inventory is the earliest record from the shop. It lists household products; wines and spirits, including whisky of course; and exotic products such as tea from China and pepper from Jamaica. It’s fascinating to see what John was selling in those initial times and the impact they no doubt had on how he felt about flavour as he started his blending journey.

John Walker & Sons annual balance book, 1857-1886 John’s son Alexander took over the business in 1857, evolving it from a small, local shop to a thriving commercial enterprise. This stock book documents the widening range of products, including many more whiskies and different types of tea, dried fruits, and spices. These aromas and flavours inspired Alexander to create the company’s first commercial blend, `Old Highland Whisky’ and it’s a time I would love to travel to. Imagine wandering around the aisles of the shop, soaking up the atmosphere.

John Walker & Sons’ book by Alfred Barnard, 1893 In 1879 John Walker & Sons opened what were considered the most advanced warehouses in Scotland. When renowned whisky writer Alfred Barnard visited the imposing new premises on Kilmarnock’s Strand Street, he noted the Walkers’ focus on innovation and craftsmanship throughout their whisky-making, bottling, and distribution processes. A true snapshot of the business at that time, this book is one of only two copies known to exist today, and gives us a truly special window into the remarkable business being ran by that time.

John Walker & Sons `Around the World’ book, 1920s By 1920 Johnnie Walker was being sold in over 120 markets. To celebrate 100 years of the business and the global reach of their brands, John Walker & Sons produced their Around the World book, which essentially is an early travelogue. The book features all the markets in which Johnnie Walker was being sold and was a thank you to their agents around the world for their contribution to the success of the business. I love how important relationships were to the Walker’s as they established their global business, just as it is for us today.

I could, of course, go on and pick examples of beautiful historical packaging, ground-breaking advertising, photographs from all around the world, and all these items have a role to play in piecing the brand story together. The items themselves are fascinating, and I love seeing how people react to seeing the original documentation that takes us back in time. But the insights that these items give us are equally as important. I like to think of myself as a bit of a detective or journalist, pulling snippets of information and materials together from various sources, to create a really rich and vibrant story relevant for any audience. There’s certainly no shortage of materials and stories.

And we continue to add to these collections by collating materials created for the brand today so we can continue to tell the brand story as it evolves for future generations. Just as we look back with pride on the legacy we have inherited from our founders and all those who have worked on the brand, we too will leave our stories in the history books for those that come next to be inspired by. It’s fascinating to think what a brand like Johnnie Walker has lived through, 200 years of world events, and, it’s exciting to think about where our journey we take us in the next 2, 20 and 200 years. I can’t wait to see, bring it on!

Bulleit teams up with American Forests to plant one million trees over the next five years in continued fight against climate change – American Whiskey News

Bulleit teams up with American Forests to plant one million trees over the next five years in continued fight against climate change

The latest green-forward initiative comes on the heels of several Bulleit and Diageo commitments to a more sustainable future, and is part of the Bulleit Frontier Fund

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey has teamed up with American Forests, the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the United States and a leader in forestry innovation, with the goal to plant one million trees over the next five years. As a fundamental part of the recently announced Bulleit Frontier Fund, this initiative reaffirms the brand’s long-standing commitment to a more sustainable future for the bartending and hospitality industry, and the communities surrounding it.

As a brand focused on building community, Bulleit aims to support pioneers like American Forests who are pushing the frontier of sustainability forward, to aid in a healthier future of our planet. The partnership with American Forests announced today reflects this mission.

“At Bulleit, we believe now more than ever that businesses have a responsibility to our environment, our communities and our planet. We’re so excited about our partnership with American Forests, because it allows us to further our commitment to sustainability and help in the fight against climate change by planting these trees, which will provide a variety of environmental benefits for years to come including carbon sequestration, air purification, water conservation, and providing vital wildlife habitat.”

Sophie Kelly Sr. Vice President of Whiskey at Diageo North America

The partnership will reforest eastern landscapes dominated by white oaks, a key species for wildlife, water conservation and forest products.

Together, Bulleit and American Forests will not only plant trees but also utilize innovative forestry, including using prescribed fire to facilitate natural oak restoration and planting trees in ways that will help them thrive in a changing climate.

These one million trees planted through the Bulleit and American Forests partnership will provide a variety of environmental benefits for years to come. American Forests has calculated these benefits to include:  

  • Carbon Sequestration
  • Air Purification
  • Water Conservation
  • Providing Vital Wildlife Habitat

Bulleit has prioritized white oak restoration because in addition to being a cornerstone species of forests in the Eastern United States, white oaks are essential to the future of so many industries, including the whiskey industry. By definition, bourbon must be aged in new charred oak containers (e.g., barrels), and its thanks to white oak that the delicious toasty, vanilla, caramel, nutty notes come to life when consumers enjoy a glass of Bulleit Bourbon or Bulleit Rye. As the bourbon matures in the barrel, the wood naturally contracts and expands during Kentucky’s four distinct seasons, pulling the liquid in and out of the inner portion of the stave, therefore bringing out wood sugars and tannins to enhance the whiskey’s flavor over the years. Once one of our Bulleit barrels is used to age bourbon, the life cycle of the barrel continues with the majority of barrels being used for many years to age other spirits like scotch, rum, and tequila.

It is a priority for both Bulleit and its parent company, Diageo, to operate responsibly and preserve natural resources for future generations. The commitment of Bulleit to plant one million trees over five years, will contribute to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Diageo is part of a group of organizations that are championing a green recovery and supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through various advocacy groups. Diageo recently signed onto the Business for Nature‘s Call to Action, joining more than 560 companies to urge governments around the world for collective action and ambitious nature policies.

In addition to its reforestation efforts in large landscapes, Bulleit has committed to supporting American Forests’ goal of creating tree equity and green space in urban areas. These Community ReLeaf efforts are set to kick-off in 2021 in Louisville, KY.

“White oak forests benefit every aspect of our lives, from providing clean air and water to the amazing smells and flavors in a glass of bourbon. This great new partnership with Bulleit will give back to these forests by taking care of white oak-dominated forests for long-term health and resilience.”

Jad DaleyPresident and CEO of American Forests

As Bulleit continues to champion their commitments to build a more sustainable future, Bulleit reminds consumers to drink and live responsibly.

K&L’s Thanksgiving “A Post-Prandial Tipple” — Our Top Picks to Make Your Holiday Complete – Whisky News

New Riff Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (750ml) $44.99 View

Whisky Advocate

Outer quote mark Fresh and delicate on the nose, with stone fruit—especially peaches—white pepper, orange Creamsicle, and spice. A generous oak backbone provides the foundation for plums, nectarines, black pepper, clove, chamomile tea, and piney cedar that sweeps into a dry oak, cocoa, iced-tea finish. Although a bit hot at times, the balance and array of flavors is an outstanding coup for this young distillery. (SSB winter 2018) Inner quote mark

K&L Notes

Jacob Grier from The Distiller writes: “New Riff has pulled off a rarity with their bourbon: a bottled-in-bond, four-year-old whiskey from a new distillery that’s reasonably priced and fully enjoyable. It deftly balances classic vanilla notes with an assertive dose of spice, hints of leather, and a mild medicinal note that lingers on the finish. It’s a welcome addition to Kentucky bourbon.”

Michel Couvreur “Peaty Overaged” K&L Exclusive Malt Whisky (750ml) $79.99 View

The chance to work with Michel Couvreur on a special K&L whisky project was something that David and I had been dreaming of for years. We had heard the stories. This crazy Belgian had moved to Burgundy in the ’60s, carved out a wine cellar inside a mountain, only to fill it with Scottish single malt whisky instead of Pinot Noir. He set up camp in Beaune, ordered new-make spirit to be delivered by tanker, and drove down to Jerez himself, selecting his own sherry butts to ensure the finest quality casks for his contracted spirit. Unfortunately, Michel Couvreur passed away in 2013 from pancreatic cancer, thus ending the career of one of the industry’s most courageous pioneers. Luckily for us, however, apprentice Jean-Arnaud has carried on after studying under Michel for more than a decade. When we visited the underground cave, we were all in total awe. The tunnels of dripping stone go on forever, and the amount of whisky stored in this secret lair is jawdropping. We put our trust completely in Jean-Arnaud and are happy we did. Our peated version of the incredible sherry expression is a seamless creation that drinks like the best version of Johnnie Black ever, mixed with the most supple and soft expressions of Macallan. It’s a lush, unfiltered, creamy, caramel-laden dream of a whisky composed only of malts 12 years and older. There’s a bit of peat on the finish, but the soft sherry is the star. (NOTE: do NOT cut the hard wax seal, use a wine opener to go through it)

Hombo Shuzo Mars Shinshu Komagatake “Limited Edition 2019” Single Malt Japanese Whisky (750ml) $149.99 View

91 points Whisky Advocate

Outer quote mark If whisky were a warm hug, this would be it. The sweet nose is rich with a lovely fruitiness of satsuma, Seville orange marmalade, yuzu, and vanilla. This carries a velvety texture rippled with an orange-flavored effervescence; apricot jam, sweet orange, sherbet, fine spices, ground ginger, and hot pepper. If this well-made example is an indication of the Mars Shinshu house style, they are getting a lot of things right. (JM, Fall 2020) Inner quote mark

K&L Notes

The history of the excellent Mars Distillery is long and complicated. The special stills that now sit at the high altitude distillery near Nagano were hand built to the specifications of the preeminent grandfather of Japanese Whisky, Masataka Taketsuru. In the 1950s, Taketsuru-san’s mentor Iwai Kiichiro, who had commissioned his famed voyage to Scotland, designed and built two pot stills for Hombo Shuzo in Yamanashi using Takesturu’s original specifications. The stills were moved to Kagoshima not long after production started and eventually moved again to Nagano in the early 80s. For another decade, Mars Whisky operated their old pot stills from their mountain home, but lackluster demand for whisky caused Hombo to cease operations completely at the plant in 1992. But renewed interest in the late ’00s for Japanese whisky compelled the owners to relaunch the brand and recommission the old pots at Mars Shinshi in Nagano. Now Mars Whisky consists of two distilleries, this one and another at the Mars headquarters on Kumamoto called Tsunuki. Production is tiny compared to their next largest competitors, Suntory and Nikka, but Mars’ single malts have become renowned for their extremely high quality. The Limited Editions are bottled at 48% and aged in primarily ex-bourbon barrels with various other cask types blended in without detail. An excellent example of what the future of craft Japanese whisky looks like and one of the more collectable and unique offerings on the market today.

Macallan 18 Year Old “Annual 2019 Release” Sherry Oak Cask Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) $299.99 View

The Macallan’s benchmark excellence is nowhere more evident than in the 18 year old, which is matured for a minimum of 18 years in seasoned sherry casks. Classic Macallan, with aromas and flavors of dried apricots and figs, spice, chocolate and orange zest. Made exclusively in hand-picked sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain. As always, the Macallan is bottled with its natural color.  This is the new package but the same old Mac 18!

Loch Fyne Whiskies “Whisky of the Year?! 🏆🥃” – Scotch Whisky News

Double Gold for Loch Fyne!

We’ve been craving some good news here at Loch Fyne recently, and much to our delight we’ve been awarded Whisky of the Year for our Loch Fyne Glentauchers 11 Year Old by the Scottish Field Whisky Challenge. Sláinte!

This exceptional Glentauchers whisky was selected from our unique and exceptional cask collection. It was distilled in May 2008 and spent 11 years maturing in a single sherry cask before being bottled at 57.7% abv. Limited to just 954 bottles, this Double Gold winner is highly-limited. Don’t miss out.

Buy the Whisky of the Year Now ›

New Arrivals and Back in Stock at K&L California – Whisky News

Michel Couvreur “Peaty Overaged” K&L Exclusive Malt Whisky (750ml) $79.99 View

The chance to work with Michel Couvreur on a special K&L whisky project was something that David and I had been dreaming of for years. We had heard the stories. This crazy Belgian had moved to Burgundy in the ’60s, carved out a wine cellar inside a mountain, only to fill it with Scottish single malt whisky instead of Pinot Noir. He set up camp in Beaune, ordered new-make spirit to be delivered by tanker, and drove down to Jerez himself, selecting his own sherry butts to ensure the finest quality casks for his contracted spirit. Unfortunately, Michel Couvreur passed away in 2013 from pancreatic cancer, thus ending the career of one of the industry’s most courageous pioneers. Luckily for us, however, apprentice Jean-Arnaud has carried on after studying under Michel for more than a decade. When we visited the underground cave, we were all in total awe. The tunnels of dripping stone go on forever, and the amount of whisky stored in this secret lair is jawdropping. We put our trust completely in Jean-Arnaud and are happy we did. Our peated version of the incredible sherry expression is a seamless creation that drinks like the best version of Johnnie Black ever, mixed with the most supple and soft expressions of Macallan. It’s a lush, unfiltered, creamy, caramel-laden dream of a whisky composed only of malts 12 years and older. There’s a bit of peat on the finish, but the soft sherry is the star. (NOTE: do NOT cut the hard wax seal, use a wine opener to go through it)

1993 The Road to Elgin (Linkwood) 27 Year Old “Old Malt Cask” K&L Exclusive Single Hogshead Cask Strength Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) (Pre-Arrival) $149.99 View

Teaspooning this exceptional whisky was a very nerve-wracking endeavor. While we inherently believe that the innocuous act of adding the tiniest possible quantity of another malt to a single barrel of Scotch does nothing to diminish the quality of a particular whisky, there is an intellectual argument to be made for keeping the sanctity and purity of a single cask intact. In the end, we’ve made the decision that in almost every case the more important factor for our customers is value over image. So while we had wanted desperately to be able to name this excellent distillery and could have likely sold every bottle for much more than the 25% premium that avoiding a tariffs would have afforded us, we believe that it is in the best interest of our customers to offer them the very best whiskies at the best possible prices regardless perception. That is indeed what this special cask represents. Even years ago, when whisky was plentiful and comparatively cheap, we would have been lucky to find a deal as sweet as this one. At this advanced aged, this famous old Speyside exhibits all the finesse and elegance you’d expect. A nose of creamy malt, Seville orange peel and honey candies. Sweet rich malt and stewed fruit on the palate with kisses of toasted vanilla, caramel tuiles and touches of warming wood spice on the finish. While some would’ve paid an extra $50 to show off the famous Linkwood name, we prefer mystery and affordability. We think most of our customers do too.

Doc Swinson’s 15 Year Old “Rare Release Batch #7” K&L Exclusive Exploratory Cask Series Nonchillfiltered Small Batch Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (750ml) $159.99 View

The return of the wonderful and mysterious Doc Swinson’s 15 Year is upon us. This newest batch is from the same unnamed source and continues to represent some of the best value available for old cask strength bourbon anywhere in the world. The Doc Swinson’s brand was started by a small (and very lucky) bottler in Washington state who’d made a name for themselves finishing Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee Whiskies in various wine casks. When they had an opportunity to secure some high quality mature Kentucky Straight Bourbon, they jumped at the chance and so did we. The source of this excellent bourbon is so concerned about its identity being revealed that the barrels are dumped in Kentucky before being transported to the bottler in anonymous totes. Usually we insist on having some idea of where the products we sell are produced, but one taste of this stuff and those standards get thrown out the window, it’s just too good to care to argue with. We will likely never know exactly where it was made, but as long as it keeps tasting this good, we won’t complain. The most special bourbons from Doc are under their “Rare Release” line. This is the 7th batch of this truly small batch line, but only the second batch of the unbelievably popular 15 year. This batch contains just 27 barrels and only 100 cases will be available in California exclusively at K&L. Bottled at a cask strength of 109.8 proof, it has all the complexity and depth you’d expect from a great old Kentucky Bourbon.


Since plane tickets won’t be realistic holiday gifts this year, we’d like to help get into the “holiday spirit” with gift ideas inspired by our roster of international whiskies.  After months of cancelled trips and adventures, these spirited gifts will transport recipients to their most-missed destinations via their taste buds – whether that means sipping aged Japanese whisky in an underground izakaya in Tokyo, Scotch on the rocky beaches of Islay and more.



Since 1757, Kilbeggan Distilling Company has crafted a portfolio of beloved Irish whiskeys unlike any other at its two distilleries: Kilbeggan Distillery, the oldest continually licensed distillery in Ireland, and Cooley Distillery, established in 1987 and considered a driving force behind the Irish Single Malt evolution.

  • The Tyrconnell 10 Year Madeira Cask, Port Cask and Sherry Cask Finish (SRP for each: $75) are a trio that showcase the versatility of Irish Whiskey. Initially aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels, each spirit spends an additional 6-8 months in casks that have been hand-selected for their ability to further enhance the profile of The Tyrconnell. 
  • Launched this year, Ireland’s oldest continually licensed distillery has revived Irish whiskey history and tradition with the limited-edition release of Kilbeggan Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey (SRP: $45). Featuring a unique mash of malted barley, raw barley and oats, this remarkable whiskey was inspired by recipes used at Kilbeggan Distillery through the late 1800s.



Made at the first distillery on Islay since 1779, Bowmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky is known as one of the most balanced Islay whiskies, which are often thought to be the smokiest Scotch whiskies in the world.

  • The recently-announced, exceptionally-rare Black Bowmore DB5 1964 (SRP: $65,000) brings together an iconic whiskey and legendary car in a masterpiece bottle of equal parts, featuring one of the world’s most sought-after single malts and a genuine Aston Martin DB5 piston.
  • With notes of citrus, salt, smoke and vanilla, Bowmore 12 Years Old (SRP: $52) brings out the best in fresh seafood, especially oysters. Together, the Scotch and oysters raise each other’s profile and reveal new flavors on the palate.



For more than three generations, the master blenders at the House of Suntory, the Founding House of Japanese Whisky, have devoted themselves to pursuing the harmony of Japanese nature and craftsmanship to produce the legendary Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki and Toki whiskies.

  • Made at the Yamazaki Distillery, Japan’s first and oldest distillery, Yamazaki 18 Years Old (SRP: $350) is praised by whisky connoisseurs all over the world for its signature, multi-layered taste with fruit and Mizunara aromas. 
  • This holiday season, a special Suntory Whisky Toki Highball Gift Set (SRP: $35) is available in select markets featuring a bottle of Toki, custom Japanese highball glass, wooden bottle glorifier and Toki Highball recipe card. Toki is a unique blend of whiskies that is ideal for making a traditional Japanese highball.

Glenkinchie Distillery Launch Sows the Seeds of Future Tourism Growth – Scotch Whisky News

Glenkinchie Distillery launch sows the seeds of future tourism growth

Lowland Home of Johnnie Walker opens safely for visitors after multi-million revamp

New Striding Man statue designed by Edinburgh artist Angela Jane Johnston. The iconic Striding Man is joined in his walk by Bruce the dog, a character from the history of Glenkinchie. Distillery Manager Ramsay Borthwick and the current distillery dog, Skyelar, joined Angela to launch the new statue.

The red bricked building sits nestled in a deep green glen, surrounded by rolling fields of barley. Few whisky distilleries are as immersed in their environment and every ingredient as Glenkinchie.

It is here in East Lothian, in an area known as ‘the garden of Scotland’, that the seeds have been sown for a new future for Scotland’s whisky tourism industry with the opening of a new multi-million pound visitor attraction.

Whisky has long-stood as one of the country’s greatest exports, drawing visitors and enthusiasts from every corner of the world. A tried and trusted tour experience has now been completely re-imagined at Glenkinchie, which officially opened this week (26 October 2020) and represents another significant step in Diageo’s £185million investment in Scotch whisky tourism.

Created by BRC Imagination Arts, a global design and production agency renowned for its work on major visitor experiences including the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin –  the new Glenkinchie brand home is a full sensory experience, immersing visitors in the history, craft and flavour of the spirit.


It also brings to life the story of the local community and people who have worked here and the story of the world’s most popular whisky, Johnnie Walker.

Glenkinchie stands as the Lowland Home of Johnnie Walker, adding a floral note to the blend, alongside the other Four Corner Distilleries, Caol Ila, Clynelish and Cardhu. As part of Diageo’s investment, the Four Corners will form a network of tourist attractions which all link to the new global centrepiece Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience in Edinburgh, which is due to open next summer.

Each location will offer something completely new to whisky enthusiasts and also bring the spirit to life for first time visitors or drinkers and people were able to savour a first taste of this as Glenkinchie opened its doors this week.

The extraordinary immersive tourist experience in the distillery’s traditional Victorian red brick warehouses sits alongside a beautifully landscaped garden – carefully curated to reflect the stunning local rural environment.

Barbara Smith, Managing Director of Brand Homes for Diageo in Scotland, officially declared the new visitor experience open with the ceremonial planting of a tree to complete the garden and to represent the future growth of Scotch whisky and tourism.

“The opening of the wonderful new visitor experience and garden at Glenkinchie is the first step in our long-term £185million investment in whisky tourism in Scotland. We are acutely aware of the difficult times many people are going through, particularly our colleagues in the tourism and hospitality sector across Scotland. We know there’s a long way to go and a lot of uncertainty ahead. Still, we believe in the resilience of our business and our communities, and we will be doing all we can through our investment to sow the seeds of recovery and future growth.”

Barbara SmithManaging Director of Brand Homes for Diageo in Scotland

“Glenkinchie will give people a thrilling first taste of the new visitor experiences we are creating across Scotland. We will be offering people an experience like no other distillery in Scotland at Glenkinchie and that will be followed as we transform Clynelish, Cardhu and Caol Ila over the coming months, and as we build towards the opening of our global Johnnie Walker Princes Street attraction in Edinburgh next summer.”

Ramsay BorthwickGlenkinchie Distillery Manager

Subject to government guidance on COVID-19, Glenkinchie will open to the public on Thursday 29th October. Along with Diageo’s full network of distillery visitor experiences across Scotland, tours operate according to strict COVID protocols to protect guests, employees and the local community. The distillery is accredited by VisitScotland’s “Good To Go” scheme in the verification of its COVID procedures (

Important information concerning lockdown November 2020 ~ Cadenhead’s London

Important information concerning lockdown November 2020

Shop closed from Monday 2nd November 2020

Unfortunately, due to the Impending lockdown on Thursday 5th of November staff illness and redundancies to secure the future of the shop.

We have to close the shop today Monday, the 2nd of November. However, we will be available this week Wednesday 4th November and Thursday 5th November for pickup in-store orders by appointment only.

Please email to book. From next week you can pick up Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays from 12.00 then 10,20,30,40, and 50 minutes past the hour till 17:00 this well continue through the lockdown.

If you come without an appointment, you’ll be turned away with no exceptions; the safety of our customers and staff is paramount and non-negotiable.

We will be observing COVID-19 safety procedures, where social distancing, mask-wearing, and non-contact will be strictly enforced.

All orders from the Springbank release last weekend are being processed but the sheer mass of interest was overwhelming and it’s taken time to process orders and answer emails. Please bear with us, both Joel and I are taking the next couple of days to get on top of the orders and emails. To do this the shop will be closed and any visitors will be turned away without exception.


Cadenheads Whisky Shop & Tasting Room
26 Chiltern Street, London, W1U 7QF


‘Born in 1820 – Still going Strong’: 200 years of brand building on Johnnie Walker – Scotch Whisky News

‘Born in 1820 – Still going Strong’: 200 years of brand building on Johnnie Walker

Global Brand Director Julie Bramham

Hear from our Global Brand Director Julie Bramham on Johnnie Walker’s 200-year journey

It is 200 years since John Walker sold up the family farm to open a grocery store, and quickly turned his hand to making high quality whisky. As I transition from CMO of Diageo India to Global Brand Director for Johnnie Walker, I’m reflecting on how John’s leap of faith led Johnnie Walker to become the world’s favourite whisky, and how we ensure Johnnie Walker’s success for the next 200 years.

There are some critical and consistent themes that have driven the brand’s phenomenal growth, and these are a framework that I believe will be the bedrock for Johnnie Walker’s future.

Dedication to quality

In 1887 Alexander Walker said ‘we are determined to make our whisky, so far as quality is concerned of such a standard that nothing in the market shall come before it’. This unrelenting commitment to quality is at the core of Johnnie Walker’s success. At the heart of a brand that can be found in virtually every country around the world is a small team of 12 expert blenders. Our blenders have curiosity in their veins and a commitment to the highest quality liquids in their hearts. At any one time, there are hundreds of experiments taking place, exploring a wide range of innovative flavours and influences, distillation conditions, cask finishes, and the different types of oak wood and grain used. Our blenders past and present have produced liquids that have been awarded a Royal Warrant by King George V in 1934 and each successive monarch since, taking us to today where all six Johnnie Walker variants received gold at this year’s International Spirits Challenge. As we build the brand for the future, our commitment to the highest quality liquids, packaging and innovation will be unwavering.

Innovation at its heart

Johnnie Walker has been innovative from the start. John Walker created a blended whisky at a time when this was rare and new, packaged the liquid in square bottles when he realised that round bottles broke at sea and created slanting labels to stand out from competitors. It is innovation that drove Johnnie Walker from the four corners of Scotland to the four corners of the world and over 120 countries by 1920. Innovation continues to be a critical driver of how we build the brand, and we have had success with new liquids, Double Black, Sherry Cask Finish and our limited-edition Blender’s Batch series. In July we announced the creation of the world’s first ever 100% plastic free paper-based spirits bottle – made entirely from sustainably sourced wood that will debut in early 2021. As we move forwards, we know we cannot stand still. The innovative and entrepreneurial approach that launched the brand must sustain, and we will continue to push the boundaries of flavour innovation to create whiskies and serves that thrill your senses, packaging that’s better for the planet and experiences that are second to none.

Consistent value of progress

The spirit of progress is at the heart of Johnnie Walker – from the icon of the Striding Man, to the message Keep Walking. Our brand icon is in motion, full of momentum and leading the way. This value of progress has paved the way for great storytelling from Keep Walking Brazil, Ode to Lesvos and Without Walls. Some of the early brand advertising in the 1960’s was truly progressive in portrayal for advertising at the time. And the value of progress has opened doors for us to forge cultural partnerships that capture the zeitgeist from Blade Runner to Game of Thrones. And the value of progress inspires us to continue to raise the bar on consumer experiences. We are currently building a ground-breaking new flagship visitor experience on Princes Street at the heart of Edinburgh – eight epic floors, two world class bars and one spectacular roof terrace that will create an unforgettable whisky experience. Johnnie Walker Princes Street and some big brand initiatives in the pipeline will be part of how we will pave the way for the next 200 years. As the Johnnie Walker MD in 1908 James Walker said, ‘we are a progressive company’, and we have no intention of changing.

There is much of the Johnnie Walker story that we can connect to at this moment in time. The Johnnie Walker story is a story of relentless endeavor in the face of adversity. It’s not just a story of business success, but also of business survival. From its early years the business persevered through the great flood of Kilmarnock in 1852; the early death of two generations of its business leaders; exceptional volatility in its first export markets; the First World War, Spanish Flu, Prohibition, and the Great Depression (all within fifteen years); the Second World War and the long and painful road to economic recovery that followed; the Oil Crisis and the global and national recessions that trailed in its wake; and the Great recession of 2007-2009. Johnnie Walker demonstrated resilience, and came back stronger each time. From around a million and a half cases in 1924, to only seven hundred and fifty thousand cases in 1945, to a million in 1955, to ten million in 1975, and twenty million in 2016. The resilience of the brand is a remarkable tribute to that stubborn determination, and self-belief, that has been present since its earliest days.

Everyone who works on Johnnie Walker wants to leave it stronger than they found it, and as the years go on, and the bar is raised higher. So, as I embark on my own Johnnie Walker journey, I will be guided by that enduring 200 year strategy – a commitment to quality, innovation and the consistent value of progress.

Earlier I quoted our 1908 Johnnie Walker MD, and as look to the next 200 years it feels apt to revisit the advertising slogan that made him famous – ‘Born in 1820 – still going strong’.


The History of Johnnie Walker with Dr Nick Morgan – Scotch Whisky News

The History of Johnnie Walker with Dr Nick Morgan

For those in the drinks industry and numerous whisky fans around the world, Dr Nicholas Morgan is a well known figure. With a thirty-year career working for Diageo – starting there even before they company took that name – he’s been most recently known as the public spokesman for the world’s largest whisky maker. However, the past few years have seen him take a break from his role as ‘Diageo’s Human Shield’, to quote the Whisky Sponge, to focus on a different project: writing the history of Johnnie Walker ready for its 200th birthday – A Long Stride: The History of the World’s No.1 Scotch Whisky.

We sat down with Nick before the book hit the shelves to find out more about how a history lecturer became one of the best-known voices in whisky, and what lessons the rise of Johnnie Walker has for both the whisky industry and whisky drinkers.

The origin of Dr Nicholas Morgan

Billy Abbott: Your background is in history and academia – how did you get involved with Scotch whisky in the first place?

Nick Morgan: I was teaching Scottish history at Glasgow university and had been away on a sabbatical doing a piece of work on Glasgow urban history, and I came back and – most people may not understand this now as it was 1989 – I had a massive pile of correspondence on my desk. I spent about two days sifting through all this stuff, and in the middle of it was a letter from a company called United Distillers asking me if I’d like to come down to London to talk to them about taking the position of archivist with the company, which I found quite intriguing. So, I went down and spoke to them and was offered the job of setting up a historical archive for United Distillers.

I was taken on to do that job and I wasn’t an archivist, so I was lucky enough to be able to appoint proper archivists to come and work for me, and spent about three-odd years putting that together. But in addition to doing the archive work, I was pulled into doing marketing work right from the start, and after three or four years discovered that I wasn’t an archivist any more and had some sort of marketing role in a department in London. The rest is history.

A Long Stride: a long-awaited project

BA: How did the book come about?

NM: I’ve had the idea of writing a book almost since joining the business thirty years ago, and certainly in my rather meagre annual performance reviews, when I had to state my ambitions, I can honestly say that for about the past twenty years I’ve simply put every year ‘Write the history of Johnnie Walker for 2020’. So, I made it very clear to people that’s what I wanted to do.

I was also able to talk to some really bright people and explain to them why it would be a good idea to have a history of Johnnie Walker, and people like David Gates, who was running Scotch whisky for Diageo at the time, was a very keen sponsor of this. So the only sort of disagreement was when I would start doing it, and I would have loved to have started a bit earlier than I did, because I could have done a bit more work.

I started about three-and-a-half years ago, spending about 85% of my time researching and then writing the book.

Researching the book

BA: Where did you find the information?

NM: Obviously, the starting point was the Diageo archive, which is a phenomenal resource and brilliantly managed by a team of professional archivists – it’s best in class. In that archive, the Johnnie Walker collection is by far the largest, albeit far from complete, but it’s absolutely huge. In that collection we have a few fragmentary very early records which were very important for piecing together the early history of the business.

From 1857, when Alexander Walker – who was John Walker’s son – took over the business, we have his annual account book, and that’s every year’s stock taking. At the beginning that’s quite detailed stock takes, but as the business gets bigger and bigger and bigger, you can’t fit it all in the book. So, that’s invaluable for seeing how a grocery business that blends whisky grows into an international whisky business in twenty or so years, which is quite phenomenal.

We have correspondence from Alexander Walker in that collection as well, and a whole range of other stuff once it becomes a limited company and there was more legal obligation to keep records. Lots of blending material from the twentieth century, and quite a lot of export-related material as well.

So, there’s a huge amount in there. But in writing the book, we also wanted to put it in a broader context. There was a very clear agreement when I started writing that this wasn’t going to just be a conventional company history, when you start off with the founder and end up with a picture of the chairman in his office and all that – we were doing a proper book to place Johnnie Walker in the context of Scotch whisky and Scotch whisky in the context of whatever else was going on. Very often whisky history is seen through a tunnel vision, and I wanted to expand on that.

To do that from the booze business perspective, I spent a lot of time looking at trade journals, not all of which have been used in the past. Some have – Harper’s, for example – but I found a few that had not been used and were highly informative. Not so much about Johnnie Walker, but more about the Scotch business and the context of that. Also, I looked at newspapers, which has been transformed with all the digital libraries, which Laura Chilton spent a lot of time working on for me. Again, she didn’t find out much about Johnnie Walker, because they hid themselves so very well, but it was really valuable.

Then also a whole range of stuff to put Scotch in the context of popular culture – a whole range of weird and wonderful journals, some of which you’ll see in the footnotes, and others that aren’t there but really informed what we could say about it. Finally, advertising journals, which really unlocked the story of the development of the Johnnie Walker brand through the twentieth century.

Lessons of the past

BA: One of the things that struck me about the history of whisky through the Walker lens are the parallels with the present day. Some of the comments in the book on the early days of whisky are things that you have discussed before about more modern situations. Are there any particular lessons from the history of Johnnie Walker that we need to pay attention to in modern Scotch whisky?

NM: There’s one that people seem to be particularly preoccupied with at the moment. About four or five months ago people started phoning me up from different bits of Diageo saying, “Is there going to be anything in the book about how the brand came through hard times?”

There is a theme of resilience, which is important for today, because I think it would be easy to look at the circumstances we are in and think that the sky’s falling in, but the sky’s fallen in on Scotch many times before, and on the Johnnie Walker brand. While not all brands survive – for example, after the First World War lots of brands disappeared – every time Johnnie Walker’s gone through one of those situations, it’s come back stronger, bigger and better, bouncing back. I think that’s an important message for everyone to have.

I think maybe there’s also a parallel today with the way that people think about the relationship between malts and blends. I was very struck by that coming out of the discussion of the ‘What is Whisky?’ case, and you’ll see there’s quite a lot in the book about it. Also, there are similarities with elitism in the world of whisky, and the idea some whiskies were far superior to others, and particularly that malt whisky was better than blends.

Culturally, that argument becomes quite complicated in the early twentieth century, not least because of the Aeneas MacDonald book [Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald, a pen name for journalist George Malcolm Thomson], which people today consider to be a sort-of bible about whisky. Not only was the book plagiarised, broadly speaking, from a whole range of other people, but it was a polemic, and a polemic written by a not very nice person – Scotland’s best-hated man, as he was known.

The views that he pronounced and his dismissal of people that drank blended whisky – a view that is very elitist and that I find quite offensive – do echo some of the comments that you still hear today from people, and the way they dismiss blends and praise themselves, of course, and single malts. I wanted to make people aware that there is a theme that is there and hasn’t gone away. I’ve also tried to suggest that it’s not really a very pleasant way to think about the category, broadly speaking.

What is Whisky?

BA: I’ve read about the ‘What is Whisky?’ case many times before, but always from the perspective of the malt producers. It’s very interesting to see it from the other side for once.

NM: That was quite an important bit for me. When I went into it, I had certain preconceptions, as you might imagine, writing from the perspective of the blended Scotch business. But I hadn’t really understood the full complexity of the situation and the degree to which these new proprietary brands of Scotch whisky were absolute disruptors in a whole range of very well-established relationships, and they blew all of that apart. The culmination, and if people read the book they’ll see this, is that by the time of ‘What is Whisky?’ everyone was asking ‘Why are these guys still trying?’. The boat has left and they were not on it. But that was the culmination of twenty or thirty years or more of these deeply vested stakeholders struggling to claw back this sort-of preeminence in the business, in the retail trade, in agriculture. I think it has to be seen like that.

BA: The history of whisky seems to have quite a circular nature, with malts back in the early days as the entrenched part of the business and blends as the disruptors. Now blends are the entrenched part of the business…

NM: …and malts are the disruptors! They’re getting their own back.

BA: The final comment in my notes on that section was ‘the power of the consumer palate’: the focus in whisky-making to create something that people like and want.

NM: What surprised me in the research – and this is the stuff that comes through from the trade journals – is that many people emotionally clung to the idea that single malts were better, and that Highland whisky was better than grain whisky, and all of that stuff. But at the end of the day, they all just had to say, “But this is what people want to drink – this is what consumer tastes are”.

Even with blended whisky, you have to remember that styles of blends changed enormously. From the mid-to-later 19th century, you have what I would call ‘toddy whisky’, because for respectable drinkers that was how you would drink it, with hot water and sugar and lemon – if you were lucky: you could never get lemons in Glasgow, people would complain, but that was how it should have been drunk. These were really heavy whiskies – there’s a great description of them in the book – oily and heavy and peaty. Of course, as soon as you start drinking whisky with soda, which became the craze from the late 1890s, then you want a lighter drink.

Styles are always going to change, to reflect what consumers want. I think that’s the same as Walker today: is it the same as it was a hundred years ago? Well, no of course it isn’t, for so many different reasons, but the principle one is what people like to drink.

Insights for drinkers

BA: Are there any insights into whisky from the story of Johnnie Walker for whisky drinkers?

NM: One of the things I think people should be aware of, which I think they’re sometimes a bit dismissive of, is the – I don’t apologise for using this word – obsession that whisky makers have with the quality of their whisky, and it sings through in the Johnnie Walker story. It’s not marketing bullshit, it’s all there, it’s absolutely real. Walker’s, more than anyone, thought that it was quality that sold their whisky, almost to their cost at different points, as they refused to advertise until they were dragged into that in the Edwardian era.

I think…no, I know, from my thirty years experience in the business, that the people who make whisky today, whether they’re distillers or blenders – and they might be quite different people from the ones that were doing it even when I joined the business, and certainly from thirty or forty years before that – they’re equally passionate about what they do, and put their all into delivering the best quality product they can, whether it’s a blended Scotch or a single malt or a single grain. I know, for what it’s worth, that sometimes they’re very hurt personally when they read some of the thoughtless comments that people put on social media in particular now about different brands and different products and different companies.

I think that passion for quality still is at the heart of all of Scotch, and if we lose that, what have we got? We’ve got nothing. And certainly for a brand to be as big as Johnnie Walker and to have persisted for this long, quality, and the consistency that goes with it for a global brand, is absolutely critical.

A Long Stride: The History of the World’s No.1 Scotch Whisky hits the bookshelves on 29 October.

Powered by WordPress