Written by Phin Upham
Johnnie Walker is one of the most widely recognizable brands in the world of Scotch whiskey. It is owned by the British multinational company Diageo, and is based in Scotland.
The brand was initially called Walker’s Kilmarnock Whiskey, but John Walker changed it to “Johnnie Walker” after he began selling it on the shelves of his grocery store. Walker died in 1857, but the brand became popular. His son and grandson would go on to develop the whiskey as a further part of drinking culture of the time.
To put the accomplishments of the sons in perspective, John’s whiskey share of the business was around eight percent. He was still relying on the store for profits and selling other goods. By the time his son Alexander Walker had finished with the business and was ready to pass it down, alcohol sales accounted for 90-95% of their overall revenue.
The square bottle that the brand is known for originated in 1870. It was a practical decision designed to allow more bottles to sit on the shelf, and the square shape meant tighter packaging and fewer broken bottles. It briefly featured a rounded bottle called Johnnie Walker Swing, which was able to rock back and forth on the table.
Johnnie Walker is now owned by the same company that owns Guinness. After joining Distillers Company in 1925, the whole operation was acquired by Guinness in 1986. Guinness and the newly absorbed brands then merged with Grand Metropolitan, forming the multinational corporation Diageo.