Johnnie Walker Swing, The Blue Ribband Whisky

Necessity: the mother of all inventions, and a whisky or two.

Legend has it that this whisky was the brainchild of Sir Alexander Walker, son of the John “Johnnie” Walker, in the 1930’s.

The only way to cross the Atlantic back in the 1930’s was on one of those luxury liners, like The Queen Mary or Normandie - both of which held the Blue Ribband for the fastest crossings in the 1930’s. Air travel by comparison was cramped, noisy and pretty uncomfortable... not for the faint hearted!

But there was one big problem with travelling by sea. Drinking and rough weather were not good bedfellows. Maintaining a fast speed for the transatlantic crossing meant your favourite scotch was never going to make it out of its clamps to pour, let alone be enjoyed by the glass.

Inventing Johnnie Walker Swing

Johnnie Walker Swing, The Blue Ribband Whisky

Not just a pretty face was our Alex. His “ah ha moment“ came when he went to the ship’s bridge for a chinwag with the Captain, and saw the compass mounted on gimbals so, no matter what the weather, it was always pretty stable. Don’t tell the landed gentry, but the same idea was used below stairs in the galley where the pots and pans were heated on the galley stove equipped with gimbals.

Johnnie Walker Swing

You can’t really put gimbals on a bottle of whisky, but you can adapt the principle. That’s exactly what Sir Alex did, by lowering the centre of gravity, and the Swing bottle was born. It simply swung from side to side; you could push it to a 45 degree angle before any of the precious whisky was spilled. 

So Johnnie Walker Swing was launched in 1932, or soon thereafter. It became a must-have item on all of the Blue Ribband liners, and discerning travellers would never be seen without a glass of Johnnie Walker in hand.

Johnnie Walker Swing Development & Swing Superior

That was the golden age of transatlantic travel, but this is now the jet age. 

So, the time came to freshen up the whisky, dust off the cobwebs, and reintroduce this classic scotch to the 20th century of Duty Free and Travel Retail. That’s exactly what we did. The Classic Swing Bottle was updated and a new premium brand Johnnie Walker Swing Superior added exclusively for Duty Free and the Cruise Liners. Although Johnnie Walker Swing is not a big whisky in the Walker world, it is smooth and easy as befits those who could afford to pay a premium price for the Atlantic crossing.

Who would have thought that, almost 60 years later, another Johnnie Walker brand would make its name with a Blue Ribband crossing of the Atlantic. This time in the air with Johnnie Walker Blue Label on Concorde.

These stories hopefully reflect some of the bonhomie & inspired moments I have enjoyed across over the years with some very talented and amusing folk. If you found this story interesting, read my story about making Johnnie Walker Green Label here

Written by Mike Collings, Founder, The Firkin Whisky Co.

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