In 1820, a young boy (just 15 years old) took the money left to him at his father’s death, just the year before, to open up a grocer shop / warehouse on High Street in Kilmarnock, Scotland. This young entrepreneur, named John, set out in this new business with one goal in mind: bringing his customers quality and consistency.
His shop sold everything from writing paper to the ubiquitous single-malt Scotch whiskies that the area is known for, but his particular aim was to create a tea blend that was not only suitable for Scottish tastes, but also to be able to do so consistently with whatever tea he could come by.
Through this painstaking learning process, young John became quite adept at using his ever-evolving palate to create tea blends that made his business consistently highly profitable, despite the fact that his store’s stock was almost entirely destroyed in an 1852 flood.
As the years went on, he passed along his love for tea to his son Alexander. In fact, once he was old enough, John sent Alexander to apprentice with a tea merchant in Glasgow where he could help take the business to the next level, by mastering the art of tea blending.
When Alexander returned a few years later to take over the business from his ailing father, he found an innovative way to use his blending expertise to build the business in a new area: with whiskey.
Alexander found that the single-malt whiskies that were produced in the area were wildly inconsistent from batch to batch, so were difficult to keep customers satisfied. Alexander discovered, though, that if he blended different whiskies together, as he’d done with tea, he could tinker with them to create a more consistent, lasting product.
In 1867, Alexander unveiled his concoction, which he called Old Highland Whisky. It was hugely popular, to put it mildly. A few years later, this blend was re-named using the full name of his father John (or, as he was affectionately known, Johnnie) – Johnnie Walker.
Johnnie Walker is now one of the most widely known, highest regarded blended whisky brands in the world.
The brand’s success is undoubtedly due to a hardworking, creative family, and, of course, their fortunate love of tea!