It began in 1820, in the small Scottish town of Kilmarnock. Young John Walker, who lost his father the year before decided to sell the family-owned Todrigg’s Farm and opened a small grocer’s shop. Named John Walker & Sons, this humble shop soon became the centre of new and exciting flavours, specialising in exotic teas and spices from all across the world. Humble farm lad John Walker had taken his first stride into the world.
The World’s First Bespoke Blend
Grocer’s shops at the time sold Single Malt Whiskies from distilleries across Scotland, but the quality often left much to be desired. John Walker started applying his skills and experience in blending tea to produce his own blend of Scotch Whisky. Before he even had a brand, Walker began to offer specific blends from his limited stock of whiskies to suit his customers’ palates. John Walker had created the first bespoke blend in the 1800s.
The Creation of A Brand
John Walker’s son Alexander, with his father’s flair for business, saw the immense potential of purveying whisky and was eager to build on the success of the family business. In 1867, he launched their first commercial blend called “Old Highland Whisky”, and his timing could not be better.
Great Britain was the pulsating heart of the Industrial Revolution, which was a major turning point in the fortunes of both the country and Walker’s business. The rail and shipping network connected Scotland to the world, and Old Highland Whisky quickly became an international brand of a unique blend.
Quality and Royal Warrant
"With regard to the different brands of whisky which you mention, they may for a time detract from the sale of [John Walker & Sons] but we are determined to make our whisky, so far as quality is concerned that nothing in the market shall come before it.”
These were the very words Alexander Walker penned in 1887 in response to one of his agents in Australia. The latter had attempted to get Walker to adjust the price of his whisky to compete with cheaper brands that were dominating the market.
Alexander Walker’s stubborn refusal to compromise on quality for profit was embodied by all in the family. Their unwavering commitment to quality eventually led to John Walker & Sons being awarded a Royal Warrant by King George V on the New Year’s Day of 1934. Since then, every successive monarch had renewed the Royal Warrant to this day. Quality is still at the heart of each of the millions of casks currently in production.