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The Many Faces of Johnnie Walker Blue Label - Guide to Limited Releases

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Expressions

The standard Johnnie Walker Blue Label was introduced to the market in 1992, but the first version of a blue-labelled Johnnie Walker called 'Oldest' was launched in 1987 exclusively to the travel retail market. Since its launch, Johnnie Walker Blue Label has become an icon of high-end blended whiskies.


With its recognisable label placed at a 24-degree angle from left to right, allowing for a more prominent logo, the Johnnie Walker brand has become the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world.


For many, the Blue Label is a status symbol representing fine things in life. To others, the Blue Label has become a moot point of contention with its numerous limited editions—many of which contain the same liquid inside, with only the label differentiating them. This division in customer perspective places the brand on a thin line between a money-making scheme and a respected high-end product.


Are the different Johnnie Walker Blue Label versions designed only to appeal to collectors, or do they offer more than just fancy packaging? One clue that provides an answer is that many people buy four bottles of the same release to display its panoramic three-sided artwork, which first appeared in 2013. Let's look at 300 different Johnnie Blue labels to get more clues.


All the images in this article have been compiled by The Whisky Ardvark. Credits to all the numerous websites, online shops, whisky auctions and publications we have roamed to make this article possible.



 

How Did Johnnie Walker Come About?


John Walker was born in 1805 in Kilmarnock, Scotland. After his father passed away, he started his first grocery store at the young age of 14 in 1820 with the money gained from selling the family farm. By 1825, John was selling spirits, including rum, gin, and Islay whisky. In 1950, he introduced Walker's Kilmarnock whisky.


After John Walker passed away in 1856, his son Alexander took over the business. In 1860, Alexander created the iconic square bottle, which was easier and safer to transport. Five years later, he introduced 'Old Highland Whisky', the forerunner of the Johnnie Walker Black Label, with its 24-degree angled label allowing the bigger, more prominent brand name to be displayed.


In 1893, the company bought its first distillery, Cardhu, which is still essential in Johnnie Walker blends.


Illustrator Tom Browne's Striding Man, inspired by a London dandy, was introduced as the icon for Walker's whisky in 1908. The family company's whisky was rebranded a year later as Johnnie Walker. 1925 Johnnie Walker became part of the newly founded DLC (later Diageo).


The blue-labelled Johnnie Walker was created in the late 1980s to cater to high-end customers shopping at the travel duty-free market. Since then, the brand has faced competition from other companies due to the rise of demand for premium blends. Instead of creating a new blend for every release, Blue Label has been wrapped in different limited, unique designs to stand out and make the brand more exclusive - also appealing to whisky collectors and specific retail markets.


In the past few years, Blue Label has worked with various traditional and contemporary visual artists, each bringing their own unique flair to the label. It may be difficult to determine which releases are the most sought-after, but we wouldn't be surprised if the collaborative releases with contemporary artists rise to the top of the list. Some of these releases have limited production runs of just 100 or 140 bottles.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label limited releases


This article provides information on 300 different Johnnie Walker Blue Label releases and designs. If you're looking for a specific bottling or want to explore a certain year or release type, please use the links provided.


Please note that despite extensive research, we were unable to find information on all the releases we have listed, and there will, more likely than not, be some releases that we have missed.




 

Johnnie Walker Standard Blue Label - What Has Changed


In 1987, Johnnie Walker created a blue-labelled premium blend called 'Oldest' exclusively for travel retail customers. Affected by the slump in whisky consumption in the 1980s, the company had a surplus of older whiskies. The new blend consisted of whiskies aged between 15 and 60 years. However, a few years later, the age statement was removed from the label and rebranded as 'Blue Label' in 1992, following the whisky's coloured label-themed branding.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label is created by blending single malts and grain whiskies from Diageo's vast portfolio of distilleries. The first releases included old Caol Ila, Royal Lochnagar and Mortlach malts, and whisky from the now-defunct lowland distillery Auchtertool and grain from Port Dundas. However, the blend continuously evolves, using whiskies in the company's multiple warehouses. Today's version is led by single malts from Cardhu, Clynelish, Benrinnes and grain whisky from Cameronbridge. It is also reported that Blue Label has an unusually high malt content of 80%.


Around the turn of the millennium, the blend was also introduced to the high street, lowering its previous travel retail standard ABV of 43% to a typical 40%.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label evolution and Johnnie Walker Oldest

Blue Label has achieved great success, not only because it was the first premium blend to hit the market but also due to its extensive advertising. From special edition packaging featuring the standard Johnnie Blue to partnerships with multiple outlets and sporting events, the brand is among the market's most easily recognisable blends.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Different presentations boxes


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V


Although no longer bottled under the name 'Blue Label', the initial release of Johnnie Walker King George V was introduced in 2007 to celebrate Johnnie Walker & Sons' first royal warrant, which was granted by the king in 1934. The blend comprises some of the oldest and rarest whiskies from the company's distilleries that were operational during the king's reign, including Cardhu, Royal Lochnagar and the old Port Ellen distillery.


To emphasise the blend's exclusivity, certain bottles of Blue Label King George V were made available in luxury boxes, such as the light-up pedestal box and a backgammon suitcase. And, of course, newer The John Walker King George V bottlings have been presented in various designs and coloured boxes.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare


In 2017, Diageo introduced a new blended whisky series under Blue Label, called Ghost & Rare, to honour its once-owned closed distilleries. This series includes expressions led by whiskies from Brora, Port Ellen, Glenury Royal, Pittyvaich, and Port Dundas grain distillery.


In 2020, Diageo released the Legendary Eight to celebrate the 200th anniversary of John Walker's first grocery shop. This expression features whiskies from eight distilleries already operating in 1820, including Oban, Lagavulin, Teaninich, Brora, Blair Athol, Cambus, Port Dundas and Carsebridge.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare Collection
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare Collection


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Special Editions 1992 to 2012


Blue Walker had only a few limited releases during its first decade. These included the 1805 Celebration Blend, aged for at least 45 years. The blend was created in honour of John Walker's 200th birthday.


Bottled at 55.8% for the first time in 2012, Johnnie Walker introduced The Casks Editions range for travel retail.


In 2011, Johnnie Walker partnered with Porsche Design Studio, a high-end product and accessories design company founded in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, who designed the original Porsche 911. The partnership resulted in multiple limited design presentations of the box. These included a glass and ice bucket box and £100,000 private home bars.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Special Editions 1992 to 2012

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Special Editions Porsche Design 2011 and 2012


 

Johnnie Walker Limited Editions 2013 & 2014


In the year 2013, Blue Label experienced a significant change. During that time, it extended its partnerships with Alfred Dunhill, a company that produces leather goods and accessories, by introducing two limited edition resigns. Besides this, Johnnie Walker also launched its inaugural editions tailored to specific cities and countries.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2013

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2013 Skyline Collection
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2014


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2015 & 2016


Throughout 2015 and 2016, Johnnie Walker Blue Label continued to release country and city editions, alongside limited expressions called 'Striding Cities' exclusively for the Chinese market.


Johnnie Walker Limited Editions 2015 and 2016

Johnnie Walker Limited Editions Country and cities 2015
Johnnie Walker Limited Editions Country and cities 2016
Johnnie Walker Limited Editions Country and cities 2016
Johnnie Walker Limited Striding Cities 2016


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Casks Edition Ceramics 2014 to 2016


Blue Label The Casks Editions were bottled in white (and one blue) ceramic decanters for selected international airports and Johnnie Walker houses worldwide between 2014 and 2016.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Casks Edition Ceramics 2014 to 2016
Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Casks Edition Ceramics 2014 to 2016


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2017


In 2017, Blue Label had a slow year, but it was marked by a special edition in collaboration with British fashion designer Tom Dixon. This special edition was a copper-coloured caged blend released for Milan Fashion Week. Other special bottlings were also released for Nepal and Hong Kong.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2017


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2018 & 2019


From 2018 to 2019, Johnnie Walker released several Blue Label bottlings exclusively for specific markets, continuing with the trend it started in 2013. Many of these releases were specially labelled and sold outside the UK. One of the series released in 2019 is called 'Pioneering Cities'.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2018 & 2019
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2018
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2018


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2020 to 2022


Throughout the early 2020s, several collectable Blue Label designs were released in multiple markets worldwide. These included the Aquas de Vida collection, designed by Colombian artists, the 'Seven Wonders of the Philippines', the 200th anniversary edition of the first John Walker grocery shop and a limited edition by visual artist VandyThePink.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2020 2021 2022
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2020 2021 2022


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Cities of The Future 2022


In 2022, Johnnie Walker answered the question of what the future major cities would look like in 2220. With ten expressions, from London and Mexico City to Singapore and Mars, the 'Cities of The Future' was depicted by Luke Halls, a multidisciplinary moving image design studio.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Cities of The Future 2220 2022 Releases


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2023 & 2024


In 2023, Johnnie Walker launched two limited blends that stood out because of their appearance and composition. One of the blends was 'Xordinare', finished in XO Cognac casks. The other blend was 'Elusive Umami', which was co-created with Japanese chef Kei Kobayashi to encapsulate the enigmatic taste of umami.


Furthermore, in 2023, Johnnie Blue partnered with a Philippines street artist, Quiccs, to create a highly collectable four-bottle set featuring the artist's signature characters from TEQ63. In Vietnam, several different label designs were released to commemorate the subject of love and the Year of the Dragon.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2023 and 2024
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Editions 2023 and 2024


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Chinese / Asian New Year 2014 to 2024 Releases


We didn't overlook the Johnnie Walker Blue Label editions released to commemorate the Asian New Year. Instead, we dedicated a separate section in this article to them.


The yearly release was initially made for the Asian market and was first introduced in 2014 to celebrate the Year of the Horse. Some years saw the release of two different editions, a general one and either a travel retail exclusive or a market-specific one.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Chinese Asian New Year 2014 to 2024 Releases
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Chinese Asian New Year 2014 to 2024 Releases


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Other Vietnam Exclusives


Vietnam has become a popular destination for specially labelled Johnnie Walker Blue Labels. However, limited information is available about most of them, including their release year. In 2022, Johnnie Blue released a remarkable collection with the Vietnamese photography artist Rehahn, showcasing some of his most famous shots.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Other Vietnam Exclusives
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Other Vietnam Exclusives
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Other Vietnam Exclusives


 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Edition Sets


Here are some limited-edition Johnnie Walker Blue Label sets. However, we couldn't find the release years for most of them since there aren't many in circulation.


The sets feature various themes such as Chinese Zodiacs, rare animals of China, bay cities, astrology, gods and mythology.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Edition Sets
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Edition Sets
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Edition Sets
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Edition Sets

 

Thank you for reading The Whisky Ardvark. Please check out some of our other informative articles listed below.




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