September, dockside on the Huangpu River in Shanghai saw the launch of an extraordinary campaign for Johnnie Walker with the first event onboard John Walker & Sons Voyager. This three masted luxury yacht will, during the next six months, be crossing the Asia Pacific region, docking at nine key ports. At the time of writing, it has already stopped in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines, with stops at Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and India to come.
The voyage is recreating Walker's earliest ventures into the region when its whiskies were carried by clippers to the new markets of the East.
"Many people don't realise that the John Walker & Sons business was one of the first modern-day companies to trade internationally," says James Thompson, chief marketing officer, Diageo Asia Pacific. "Without the help of technology, the Walkers transformed the industry when they engaged ship captains to act as brand ambassadors and take John Walker & Sons' whisky from their corner store in Scotland to the four corners of the modern world - this took vision, pioneering spirit and a lot of courage."
The yacht features four reception areas, two on deck, and two lounges below. At each of the ports the Walker team will invite individuals whom it regards as the most progressive, influential and scene-setting onboard, to entertain and educate them in the ways of Scotch whisky."
Our goal is for John Walker & Sons Voyager to be the ultimate luxury experience for premium spirit connoisseurs in this region - if not the world," says Thompson. "To ensure we deliver on this, we have partnered with global leaders and innovators in beverage service, culinary creation, design and entertainment to develop a highly customised programme that spans large-scale parties to intimate conversation opportunities and immerse these luxury consumers in a world of quality craftsmanship, heritage and modern innovation. It is an opportunity for us to celebrate the current game changers in Asia Pacific."
"The voyage is recreating Walker’s earliest ventures into the region"
On board throughout the voyage will be Tom Jones, Johnnie Walker global brand ambassador who will lead the invited guests in mentoring sessions in the Blue Label Game Changer lounge which is designed in partnership with Alfred Dunhill.
The voyage also sees the launch of the latest member of the Walker family, Odyssey, a blended malt with three (unnamed) elements which have been married in European oak casks and which was awarded a Gold medal at this year’s IWSC.
“There is an insatiable demand for super deluxe spirits globally –particularly in Asia Pacific,” says Thompson. “Around the world, net sales for Scotch whisky are up 12 per cent with most of that growth coming from super deluxe. In Asia Pacific, Scotch whisky delivered more than 80 per cent of our net sales growth, with almost half coming from super deluxe whiskies. We see John Walker & Sons Odyssey as the next step in our luxury journey, and we believe the integration of heritage and progress, provenance and innovation will make it of the utmost interest to luxury connoisseurs in this region.”
As part of the programme, leading authors, photographers and illustrators from the region have been invited to capture their impressions and knowledge of each of the ports of call. In so doing, they will be creating a new, updated version of Around The World, a book which John Walker & Sons published in 1920 which, with entries written by all of its international agents, is regarded as one of the first luxury travel guides. Their impressions can be read at www.jwsvoyager-odyssey.com.
There is talk that the voyage may be extended to include Dubai, but it is unclear yet whether the yacht will eventually sail into