Saxon Hotel welcomes first Johnnie Walker bar to Africa

This month sees the Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa welcome a new addition to their exclusive offerings - the eagerly awaited Johnnie Walker whisky bar, Eighteen05.

Dedicated to providing guests with an unprecedented, luxury whisky experience, this intimate hotel bar offers ambience and tastings one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

The only one of its kind on the continent, The Saxon’s Eighteen05 is a fitting showcase for the Scotch Whisky House’s finest - and rarest - offerings. 

The name Eighteen05 draws its significance from the year 1805, when Scottish founder, John ‘Johnnie’ Walker, was born.

The story begins in earnest when as a young teenager, he inherited the family business and sold it to purchase a grocery store.

It was here that he began experimenting; first with teas - which he blended to create nuanced, balanced flavours - before applying his newfound skills to whisky.

Blending variants from the four corners of Scotland, he created unique flavours that far surpassed the raw, inconsistent flavours of the individual whiskies. 

By 1879, his whiskies were winning global awards, as they have continued to do.

Today the Johnnie Walker range of stylish, acclaimed whiskies account for twenty million cases sold annually, making the house the most popular scotch whisky in the world and a complement to the Saxon’s offerings. 

In 2005, Johnnie Walker celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of its founding father with the release of just 200 bottles of an ultra-limited edition blend.

Specially created by renowned Johnnie Walker master blender, Jim Beveridge, the aptly named ‘1805’ is his personal tribute to the life of John Walker.

The ‘1805’ was made with the best whiskies - rare whiskies predominantly selected from distilleries no longer in existence.

Bottles were then numbered and dated and, due to the extraordinarily limited number available, are valued at well over R450,000 each. 

Housed in a handmade Victorian-style writing case, every bottle comes with an antique nib pen reminiscent of John Walker’s era and a replica of his original handwritten recipe book.

The bottle is decorated with a gold bust of John Walker, as well as an etching of his handwriting from a document dated 1819 - the oldest surviving piece in the brand’s archives. 

Of the liquid itself; with a nose said to be an earthy blend of damp and dewy moss, autumn leaves and vanilla, a palate that invokes autumn fruits like cranberries, spiced pumpkin and pears, and a smooth finish that lingers on the tongue, it is regrettable that it will only ever be sampled by a very select few. 

This is partly because none of the bottles are available for retail sale.

Instead, in recognition of John Walker’s entrepreneurial success, bottles of ‘1805’ were presented to individuals and organisations considered to have made significant contributions to modern life; one of which is the Saxon Hotel.

In honour of this momentous bestowal, Eighteen05 was deemed to be an even more special and entirely fitting name for the bar. 

Of course, a beverage born of such exclusivity deserves an equally exclusive setting.

To this end the Saxon commissioned South Africa’s most celebrated and sought after interior designer Stephen Falcke.

Responsible for securing the Saxon’s place on the design map, he was tasked with creating a bar that authentically embodied the Johnnie Walker brand, while staying true to the hotel. 

Falcke’s vision involved combining interesting materials to create a classic environment, with a contemporary twist.

Sophisticated navy wallpaper is offset by light and dark wood panelled flooring, while unusual, eye-catching wooden chandeliers drop from the ceiling for an illuminated, inviting setting.

Views of the Saxon’s main pool provide an attractive backdrop for sampling the Scotch Whisky House’s most exclusive offerings. 

To further enhance the Eighteen05 experience, one of the bar’s walls has been specially designed to showcase bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue, which sit behind a clear perspex panel for safekeeping.

These bottles are available for purchase and each bottle sold will feature a special placard engraved placard with the buyer’s name.

“We are honoured to launch South Africa’s, Africa’s, only authentic Johnnie Walker bar,” said George Cohen, managing director of the Saxon.

“As part of our ongoing pursuit to meet and exceed evolving tastes, we wanted to create an exclusive, luxury experience for our guests to grow in their appreciation for whisky.” 

“Johnnie Walker, like the Saxon, is recognised as an icon of personal progress, as an international, high-status, sophisticated and dynamic brand.

“When two iconic brands such as these come together, the result can be nothing short of spectacular,” concluded Cohen.