Given Johnnie Walker’s long and iconic history, it’s only fitting that its building in the heart of Edinburgh projects the aura of a modern museum (but with a far more festive twist). Straddling eight floors, this remarkable destination and venue is a spirit lover’s dream come true, complete with tours, tastings, dining, parties, gifts, and more. We visited for ourselves, calling it “Disneyland for whisky drinkers” over on Instagram and we weren’t kidding, as the brand left no detail or experience unattended. Even those who’ve never had a taste of the good stuff will find themselves bowled over by this elegant and epic domain. Here’s everything you need to know.
History of Johnnie Walker
Around 1820, a young man named John Walker sold the family farm and then opened a grocer’s shop in the town of Kilmarnock. It was common in those days for grocers to sell single malts and just as common for the single malts to vary wildly in terms of quality and consistency. Striving for the best output, Walker began blending single malts together to create a consistent and delicious flavour profile. When the resulting blends proved popular amongst the locals, a legacy was born. It would soon be known as John Walker & Sons.
John Walker passed away in 1857 and left the business to his son, Alexander, who used Kilmarnock’s thriving railway system to expand the distribution of his beloved blended whisky. A decade later, he introduced the signature bottle design with a slanted label that continues to visually define the brand. The company’s “Striding Man” logo wouldn’t appear until the early 20th century, when Tom Browne created it at the behest of Alexander’s sons, Alexander II and George. Around this same time, John Walker & Sons became Johnnie Walker.
By the 1920s, Johnnie Walker whisky was available in 120 countries across the world and an increasing cultural fixture. Over the decades that followed, the blender’s popular Red Label and Black Label whiskies were joined by additional classics like the ultra-premium Blue Label and the Gold Label Reserve. To this day, Johnnie Walker delivers steadfast consistency across its flagship range, thereby preserving a heritage over 200 years in the making.
Johnnie Walker Princes Street
Bringing the aforementioned history to life with meticulous precision, Johnnie Walker Princes Street offers the ultimate journey for whisky lovers of every variety. From guided tours, various tastings and the retail shop, to spacious venues, an archival room and the vivacious bars, it leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Indeed, there’s a reason this place is rated so highly on TripAdvisor, with over 700 5-star ratings.
Should you decide to visit this downright epic destination, consider booking an experience in advance. Options include an exclusive tasting in the whisky cellar, a 90-minute tour with adjoining drinks, a guided trip through the archives, a brand-new experience that pairs cold brew coffee with select whiskies, a full-blown party at the 1820 bar, an assortment of other tastings, live music, and more. It’s also an ideal venue for corporate parties and other large gatherings, which you can likewise book in advance. Oh, and don’t forget to try some Johnnie Walker Blue Label, so you can finally cross it off your bucket list.
What began with a savvy grocer named John Walker continues to this day on Princes Street, where history, modernity, and indulgence collide. Whether you want to dive into the past or simply taste some exceptionally-crafted whisky, you’ll find you’ve come to the right location. It made us wish there were places like this in every major city, where adults can gather to listen, learn, taste, experience, and enjoy for hours at a time within a multi-faceted space. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Walker.