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With the news yesterday (9 September) that Diageo is to press ahead with plans to move production of Johnnie Walker from its home in Kilmarnock with the loss of around 10% of its workforce in Scotland, we take a look at five key periods in the history of Johnnie Walker.

1. Originally known as Walker's Killme whisky, Johnnie Walker was first produced by John Walker after he began selling whisky in his grocer's shop in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1820. Following Walker's death in 1857, his son Alexander Walker and grandson Alexander Walker II produced their first blend, Walker's Old Highland. Under John Walker, whisky sales represented 8% of the firm's income. By the time Alexander was ready to pass on the company to his own sons, that figure had increased to between 90-95%.

2. The brand's iconic square bottle was introduced by Alexander Walker in 1870. Other identifying characteristic of the bottle became the label, which is applied at an angle of 24 degrees. Alexander registered his signature black and gold slanting label, a design that is similar to the present Black Label. When copyrights became available in 1876, Walker added that measure of protection to the brand.

3. Johnnie Walker Red and Black label were introduced in 1909, but it wasn't until 1992 that the Blue label variant was launched known as the "whisky for connoisseurs". An 'ultra premium' King George V variant, selling at an average price of US$400 per bottle was introduced in 2007. Sitting in a crystal decanter, the whisky is made using the same techniques employed during the monarch's reign and features only whiskies from distilleries operating during that era.

4. In 1999 Diageo launched the Johnnie Walker 'Keep Walking' advertising campaign, the first global campaign for the brand. Since it's inception, 'Keep Walking' has run in more than 120 countries over eight years, including more than 50 TV executions, 150 print executions, radio ads, websites, sponsorships, internal awards, consumer awards and even a charitable fund. The advert revitalised the brand and sales returned to strong growth. Volume sales grew from 10.2 million cases in 1999 to 15.1 million in 2007, resulting in a 94% revenue growth.

5. The brand's Black Label was created in 1820 and originally known as Walker's Old Highland Whisky before being re-launched in 1909 under its new name. In April, Diageo kicked off celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Black label with the launch of the Johnnie Walker Black Label Centenary Limited Edition. The commemorative pack consists of a "sleek", black glass bottle displaying ten key milestones from Johnnie Walker's history. The Black Label name on the label is written with "real gold and textured ink", as is the golden figure of the striding man.


Sectors: Spirits

Companies: Johnnie Walker, Diageo

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