Color Wars: The Story Behind The Different Johnnie Walkers

Everyone knows Johnnie Walker. From your standard Johnnie Red all the way up to that rare and beautiful beast known as Johnnie Blue, scotch drinkers are on a first-name basis with the good Mr. Walker no matter what color label they drink. Now there's a new color in the portfolio, an 18-year-old blend they're calling Platinum, with bottles hitting shelves all over the country, I just had to ask: how does Johnnie Walker choose their colors?

To find out, I spoke to Jim Beveridge (yes, that's his real name), the master blender for Johnnie Walker and the mastermind behind the newest color in the collection. For the most authentic experience, imagine Beveridge's voice with a thick Scottish brogue.

Platinum just made sense.

"This one just seemed like a no-brainer. It seemed obvious — it's about the idea of being a contemporary, 21st-century style, following that tradition of private blending and preciously aged whiskies. It's all about getting quite precise combinations of flavors. That all takes you to platinum, you know? What color would match all of that?"

Different colors work for different occasions.

"For a high-energy refreshment idea, Johnnie Walker Red Label is absolutely perfect. A bit less high-energy, but rewarding experience of sharing with friends: that's Johnnie Walker Black Label over ice. You move into expressions like Johnnie Walker Blue Label which is very rare and special, and then Johnnie Walker Platinum, which you probably will drink neat to let all the flavors evolve – that's quite a different kind of occasion. I tend to think less about which of these that I prefer and more about which work best for different kinds of occasions."

Platinum is the modern day equivalent of Blue.

"Johnnie Walker Blue's heritage is in the 19th century. We've maintained that tradition through that expression of whiskies. I think if Alexander Walker [son of Johnnie] were here, Platinum is the kind of blend that he would have innovated for today's consumer, this idea of contemporary flavors."

The color selection process is more involved than you think.

"There's three aspects to it: you consider whether the color will be based on the heritage of the blend, and there have been some colors which have been used in the past which could be used for this particular expression. There's the consideration about the kinds of flavors that are available from our stocks. It's also the associations that consumers would have with each color and linking that to the heritage and the flavor of Johnnie Walker.

Each of those three elements are used in the discussion around the color of that label. It's not a decision that's made lightly because it's part of an ongoing range of products. The aim of finding the right color for this particular expression was a color that would match the flavor style, the philosophy behind its creation and also what consumers would associate with it."

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