Icons of Whisky: John Walker

let’s begin

John Walker was born on July 25th 1805 and had humble beginnings. He started off life on his father’s farm, called Todriggs Farm.

When John Walker’s father passed away in 1819, the farm was sold and Walker, at the tender age of 14, purchased his first grocery store

It was from this grocery store that he went on to found a Whisky empire.

A Skilled Businessman

He was known as a savvy businessman. Walker had interests in other enterprises such as warehousing and wine sales. But the grocery is where he made his name with local people.

By 1825 he had begun selling his own spirits, and not just Whisky either. He sold everything from Gin to brandy, as well as Islay malt. Whisky was massively popular at the time. It was not uncommon for grocers to start their own brands and sell them from their shops.

A Skilled Blender

John Walker saw the potential in his own Whisky and began blending it for customers. Whisky distilling at the time was an imperfect art. Walker quickly realised that blending was a great way to achieve consistency and create some fantastic malt.

Back in the 1800s when it was first founded, the Johnnie Walker that we know today was called Walker Kilmarnock Whisky. It was hugely popular with the locals. A lot of this is down the Walker’s skills as a blender, creating a product that was consistent and brilliant at the same time. The irony of Walker’s skills in crafting spirits is that he himself was a teetotaller.

Remembered with a Blend

Today he has been commemorated with The John Walker, a blend of malt from only nine distilleries, some of which are no longer operating. To create this malt the brand has sourced products that are similar to what would have been around during Walker’s time and in the process have created a fantastic dram.

Walker did not take the John Walker brand very far and it was actually his son Alexander who did the most for the brand. However, it is undeniable that without his enterprising spirit and passion for a good product, Johnnie Walker would probably not be the biggest selling blend in the world today.

Buy the Limited Edition The Great Drams of Scotland Book by clicking here

Tags: FeaturedJohn WalkerJohnnie WalkerTodriggs farmWhisky
Picture of Greg


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

You might be interested in

More from the blog

1 thought on “Icons of Whisky: John Walker”

Leave a comment

Login / register