• The Cabinet

The Story of Johnnie Walker in 5 Details

Updated: Apr 27

If you know anything about Johnnie Walker whisky, you probably know that the brand always ‘Keeps Walking’, and over its 200-year history it has seen a thing or two. As well as being a witness to events, Johnnie Walker has changed itself over its 200-year existence. So, when it came to celebrating its bicentenary, we were lucky enough to work with the brand to create a pack design that celebrated the enormous success and history of the brand. In doing so, we chose 5 key moments in the brands journey so far and used those elements to create a pack which paid homage to the man himself and his legendary journey on creating an internationally recognised and loved brand.


1. BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN


John Walker started his entrepreneurial life in 1820 with the sale of the farm of Todriggs near Kilmarnock, which had been farmed for generations by the Walker family. The proceeds of the sale were to help the recently orphaned 14-year-old John Walker set up in business, and he did just that when John then bought a shop dealing in groceries, wines and spirits near Kilmarnock Cross....which at the age of 14, he did with the help of his father's trustees.

The inner carton reveals the only existing image of the Kilmarnock grocery store.


2. JOHN WALKER & SONS



Johnnie Walker only ever knew his business as a grocery one and it wasn’t until 1865 when his son Alexander bought out his mother Elizabeth and his brother Robert and set up as 'John Walker & Sons’. Ten years later larger premises were opened and whisky blending and bottling were dramatically expanded, mainly due to exports to the colonies. Offices were opened in London, and soon became the headquarters with branches in Australia, Canada, South Africa and other countries.

As a nod to the first Johnnie Walker commercial blend of Old Highland Whisky, the naming across the bottle and carton for this celebratory blend goes back to the original 'John Walker & Sons'.


3. WHITE LABEL



Although it was never its official title, bottle’s of John Walker’s first commercial blend, Old Highland Whisky became known to the public as 'White Label', therefore in 1909 as part of a re-branding exercise, we saw all of their expressions coined after their respective label colours. Additionally, while the re-branded 'White Label' was a 6 year old blend, the original Old Highland Whisky was only a 5 year old.

Taking inspiration from the original Old Highland Whisky, the iconic slanted white label sits across the front of the bottle.


4. AN ICON IS BORN



With a growing business and a range of different coloured label whiskies being enjoyed and advertised around the world, the story goes that during a business lunch, Alexander II and George Walker, persuaded Tom Browne, the best illustrator of the day, to draw a straining man on a napkin. Inadvertently creating one of the most enduring and charismatic brand icons to have ever existed, Johnnie Walker moved from being a Victorian Grocer to an Edwardian dandy.

The icon that is the Striding Man features across the packaging with an additional banner to celebrate the 200 year birthday of the brand.


5. AWARDS GALORE



On the earliest known bottles of Old Highland Whisky there is a gold plate at the foot that celebrates all the global awards that Johnnie Walker had amassed by this point in its relatively short journey. Today, Johnnie has no need to boast, but instead a place to display the distiller’s accuracy of product, presenting its traditionally higher strength than the blends we drink today.

In keeping with the original bottle, we featured the gold foil rectangular label which carries information about the blend...and it's high value strength!


When it comes to design and innovation, industry experts and lovers of design will know that sometimes even the most subtle nuances can make the world of difference to a brand or products story, look and feel or tone of voice. We love to look at the key elements of a brands design and celebrate each moment in its singularity and its entirety.


Keep an eye out as we take a look at some of the brands we’ve worked with as we tell the story behind the design, plus, we’ll have a look at some of our favourite brands that we haven’t been lucky enough to work with…yet!