Rare Johnnie Walker historical ‘crown jewels’ displayed for first time, in Kilmarnock


Treasured historical artefacts from the roots of Johnnie Walker whisky are to go on public display for the first time in Kilmarnock – the town where the story began 200 years ago.

It was in Kilmarnock in 1820 that young John Walker set out in business with the opening of a grocery store. And now, two centuries later, the rarest items from those humble beginnings will be put on display for the public to visit and view.

The John Walker exhibition is a partnership between the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock and the Johnnie Walker Archive.

Key items, never before available for public display, will include:

  • The 1819 hand-written inventory from the sale of Todriggs Farm near Kilmarnock: The oldest item in the Johnnie Walker Archive collection, recording the sale of the farm after the death of John Walker’s father, which funded the establishment of his grocery store.
  • An 1825 hand-written inventory from John Walker’s grocery store. The oldest existing record from John Walker’s shop detailing its stock of exotic teas from China, spices from Jamaica and, of course, Scotch whisky.
  • A John Walker stock book dating from 1857, recording the growth of the business and its increasing focus on whisky in the year of John’s death when the business passed to his son Alexander.

Also included in the exhibition is a rare original copy of a book by renowned Victorian whisky writer Alfred Barnard who visited the Walker’s premises in Kilmarnock in 1893, and the first international medals awarded to Walker’s whiskies, from the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879, Adelaide in 1887 and Melbourne in 1888.

Councillor Elena Whitham, Depute Leader of East Ayrshire Council and Chair of East Ayrshire Leisure said, “We are delighted to be hosting this display as part of the celebrations to mark 200 years since John Walker started his business in Kilmarnock. We have always recognised him as a son of Kilmarnock and it’s entirely appropriate that these incredible artefacts will be on display in his home town.

The Johnnie Walker display will be a permanent feature in the Dick Institute, with different artefacts from the Johnnie Walker Archive being rotated on a regular basis. The current loan items will be on display until October 2020.

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