Each year, Johnnie Walker Blue Label designs a special bottle to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The bottles are particularly striking and beautiful and feature designs created by famous artists many of us—including this writer—would not be familiar with if not for these bottlings.
By no means is Johnnie Walker alone in this somewhat avaricious celebration of the arts and tradition. The Macallan, Cognac house Martell, and a slew of others also release special bottles, but Johnnie Walker’s happen to be some of the most stunning. This year, the year of the Wood Dragon, the distillery teamed up with influential Asian-American artist James Jean—whose work you probably are actually familiar with, even if not aware.
Born in Taiwan and raised in New Jersey, Jean cut his teeth in the world of advertising and comics. You’ve probably seen his art in the pages of The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, ESPN, or Playboy. You might recognize his work in the comic series The Umbrella Academy, on the CD case fan of My Chemical Romance ‘s album The Black Parade, in numerous high fashion stores, or on posters for movies like mother!, The Shape of Water, and Blade Runner 2049.
Jean’s more recent focus, however, points to painting, as seen on the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Year of the Dragon bottle. The dragon symbolizes might, life, and creativity as well as future prosperity, while its combination with wood indicates innovation, vision, and growth, which according to the whisky brand works well with their “Keep Walking” motto. Optimism and power can be seen across the bottle and box for the 2024 release.
“With Johnnie Walker Blue Label Lunar New Year, we wanted to create a dragon that felt different, new and innovative—respect for the past but also looking into the future with optimism—in the same way that Johnnie Walker stands for progress through that incredible Keep Walking spirit,” says Jean.
“The Year of the Dragon is rich in symbolism and tradition in Asia,” he says. “Many consider the dragon the most powerful animal in the Chinese Zodiac and the Wood Dragon felt remarkably close to me because of the natural elements prevalent in my own work..Evolved from traditional depictions of Chinese dragons, my dragon is composed of flowers and organic elements, from which emerge tendrils and arcing lines, evoking the idea of roots and connection.”
Jean also took inspiration from the flavors of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which is made from a combination of some of the rarest whiskies in the brand’s reserves. He describes hidden elements in his art that are emblematic of the whiskey: “chrysanthemums, from which flow liquid gold” and “hummingbirds sipping on the precious nectar.”
Bottled at 40 percennt ABV, the 2024 edition of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Lunar New Year is priced at $269 and can be found in stores across the globe.