Johnnie Walker is a brand of blended Scotch whiskey owned by Diageo. It is one of the world's most popular whiskies, selling over 130 million bottles a year in almost every country. Johnnie Walker makes five different whiskies, each with a colored, slanted label. In order of price, they are Red, Black, Green, Gold, and Blue.
John Walker was born in 1805 near Kilmarnock, Scotland. His father died when he was 14, and his mother sold the farm they owned, which provided enough money to buy a small grocery store, which the young John managed. By 1825, he was successful, and had started to sell his own brand of whiskey. With the arrival of the railroad, Walker's business grew, and his son Alexander joined the family business.
In 1860, blended whiskies became legal in Scotland, and Alexander introduced "Walker's Old Highland" whiskey in 1865. The company began to move towards being a whiskey blender, a trend that only accellerated after Alexander's death in 1889. His sons, Alexander II and George acquired the Cardhu distillery in 1893, and by 1906, had started color coding the labels of their whiskey -- their White Label was over 5 years old, a Red Label was over 9, and Black Label was over 12. By 1910, cartoonist Tom Browne had sketched out the famous "Striding Man" logo, and all the Johnnie Walker whiskies had dropped their complicated names in favor of being called by the color of their label.
During World War I, White Label was dropped from the lineup. In 1920, Alexander II developed what would eventually be known as Gold Label, which originated as a centenary bottling. In 1925, Johnnie Walker became part of the Distiller's Company, which would eventually be bought by Guinness, who merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo. 1992 saw the release of Blue Label, the most expensive of the regular Johnnie Walker lineup. 1997 introduced Green Label, which is a blend of 100% malt whiskies. Most recently, Johnnie Walker Double Black extends the Black Label profile with more peaty Scotches and a higher toast level in which it ages.
Today, Red Label is a blend of 35 grain and malt whiskies bottled at 80 proof. Black Label is around 40 whiskies, each aged for 12 years or more. Green Label is 100% malt whiskies, and at least 15 years old. Gold Label is a blend of around 15 malt whiskies aged for between 15 and 18 years. Finally, Blue Label is meant to mimic 19th century Scotch, with a rich, peaty flavor profile.