It was named by customers
Alexander created his first signature whisky blend in 1865, calling it Old Highland Whisky (which came with a white label, later discontinued). He soon added Special Old Highland Whisky (with a red label) and Extra Special Old Highland Whisky (black label). Since the names didn’t necessarily roll off the tongue, and they were hard to read from the other side of the counter, customers started asking for “the one with the black label” and “the one with the red label.” In response, Alexander simply changed the names to what the customers had been clamoring for. More than 100 years later, both the names and the whiskies are still sailing along.
It’s had fewer Master Blenders than the UK has had monarchs
Beveridge is in his 39th year with Johnnie Walker, and he is only the sixth Master Blender in the entire history of the brand. By comparison, there have been nine monarchs of the United Kingdom in the same span.
It played a big role in France’s scotch obsession
France’s scotch obsession, you ask? That’s right, France imports more scotch than any country in the world. Go ahead and read that again to double check it. The reason for this surprising factoid dates to the 19th century phylloxera epidemic that ravaged French vineyards, devastating the wine and brandy (including Cognac) industries in the process—and opening the international market for scotch. Alexander jumped right in with Johnnie Walker Black Label.
It’s an icon in the worlds of whisky, politics, and pop culture
Johnnie Walker Black Label was the publicly acknowledged favorite whisky of Great Britain’s most famous leader of the 20th Century, who included it in a painting he called “Bottlescape.” It was also the avowed favorite of famous pundits, film critics, and pop musicians, and it has appeared in numerous songs, TV shows, and iconic movies, including a pair of sci-fi classics in which it got its own futuristic bottles.
Its current label and “Striding Man” logo were launched more than a century ago
They both kicked off in 1909, the year that illustrator Tom Browne—who was internationally famous at the time, as well as a friend and influence on Charlie Chaplin—made a sketch on a cocktail napkin that became the now iconic Striding Man, visible on every one of the more than 130 million bottles of Johnnie Walker Blended Scotch Whisky sold annually. The customer-driven, official name change from Extra Special Old Highland Whisky to Johnnie Walker Black Label was made in ‘09 as well.
Its label is slanted at exactly 24 degrees
Alexander wanted his label to stand out from the crowd and have room for more text. He accomplished both by placing it at a slight angle across his bottles. Another innovation he made that turned out to be a stroke of marketing genius was to ship his whisky in square bottles. He did that to reduce breakage during shipping—which it did—but it also helped his brand stand out even more from the pack.