How Tea Blending Influenced The Creation Of Johnnie Walker Whisky

Born in the early 1800s, John Walker would create a profound liquid legacy in the form of the now-famous whisky bearing his name, and it all began with the sale of his family farm. The Whiskey Exchange reveals that after the death of his father, fourteen-year-old Walker used profits from the sale to open his first grocery store in 1820, located in Kilmarnock, Scotland, perched in the Western Lowlands of county Ayrshire (via Thrillist). Thus began his journey from tea blending to Johnnie Walker whisky. 

According to Thrillist, the teenaged Walker began blending tea in his shop in response to the hot drink's growing popularity throughout the United Kingdom, thanks to the efforts of the British East India Company. Self-taught in the art of tea blending, he became a master of the craft by the time his interest shifted to another in-demand beverage in Scotland: whisky. At the time, whisky was considered a somewhat harsh drink, but young Walker soon helped to change that narrative. Using instinct, a desire for consistency, and his finely honed tea-blending skills, he created what is now called blended scotch — and the rest is spirits history.

A modern nod to John Walker's history

To this day, Johnnie Walker pays homage to the founder's roots as a tea blender in a few ways: from cocktail recipes to informative experiences.

The Johnnie Walker website showcases a green tea cocktail described as "sweetness with a soul." It's made with the company's signature Johnnie Walker whiskey (red or black label, the recipe shares tasting notes on each for you to choose your own adventure), sweetened green tea, and lemongrass.

Currently owned by parent company Diageo Brands, The Diageo Bar Academy offers an online class titled Blending With Tea which promises to "spill the tea" on Johnnie Walker's historical ties to the drink and the complexities of tea-infused cocktails.

And for true fans of the prestigious whisky (or just anyone living in the area), the company offers a tour that focuses on the history of Johnnie Walker. The tour includes a visit to the facilities at Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh, where devotees can view artifacts, learn the company history, and hear tall tales — and enjoy a whisky highball in the Grocer's Sensorium, a nod to the environment that started it all.

So if you're interested in celebrating John Walker's journey from the farm to blending tea to creating one of the most well-known whisky brands in the world, Johnnie Walker has you covered.