Biggest single investment in Scotch whisky tourism launched by Diageo

Diageo has seized on the meteoric rise of whisky tourism in Scotland by unveiling plans to invest a further £150 million into the booming sector.

Published 16th Apr 2018
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

The programme of investment will involve creating a state-of-the-art Johnnie Walker immersive visitor experience based in Edinburgh. They will also upgrade to the brand’s existing network of 12 distillery visitor centres in a move which, according to Diageo, will put Scotland at the “cutting edge of the global boom in food and drink tourism”.

The company will also upgrade its existing network of 12 distillery visitor centres to create a new generation of Scotch attractions where people can meet the craftsmen and craftswomen who make the world’s most popular distilled spirit.

"Today’s announcement highlights to the world that Scotland is a leading destination for tourists and business investors.” - Nicola Sturgeon

A record 1.7 million visitors from across the globe travelled to more than 40 distillery visitor centres in 2016 in a sign of the sector’s growth.

Four of the firm’s key distilleries, Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish, will be linked directly to the Johnnie Walker venue in Edinburgh, representing the “four corners of Scotland” – the regional flavour variations of Lowland (Glenkinchie), Speyside (Cardhu), Island (Caol Ila) and Highland (Clynelish).

A firm spokesperson said the aim was to create a “unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland”, encouraging visitors to the capital to also travel to the country’s “extraordinary rural communities”.

The brand's other popular visitor distilleries: Lagavulin, Talisker, Glen Ord, Oban, Dalwhinnie, Blair Athol, Cragganmore and Royal Lochnagar, will also see investment to support the growth of single malt Scotch whisky.

This is in addition to the £35 million already committed to re-open the ‘lost distilleries’ of Port Ellen and Brora, taking Diageo’s network of distilleries with specialist visitor experiences in Scotland to 14.

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The announcement comes as the Scottish Government and its agencies, Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland, launch the Scotland is Now campaign to sell the country to the world as a business and tourism destination.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is already predicting a strong year for whisky tourism with distillery visitor centres now playing an increasingly important and valuable role in the Scottish tourism sector.

Some are already on a par with other large tourist attractions like Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “I’m delighted to see this investment by Diageo, which is a huge vote of confidence in the future of Scotch Whisky.
“Scotch Whisky tourism is increasingly important to the business model of distilleries, with over 1.7 million visits to Scotch Whisky visitor centres last year.

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“This not only provides a boost to communities across Scotland, but also showcases Scotland’s culture, history and beauty by sharing our pride in Scotland’s national drink.”

The new building in Edinburgh will become a hub for Diageo’s business in Scotland, linking to wider social investment and creating opportunities in the hospitality sector for young unemployed people through increased investment in the company’s Learning for Life programme.

Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes said: “Scotch is at the heart of Diageo and this new investment reinforces our ongoing commitment to growing our Scotch whisky brands and supporting Scotland’s tourism industry.”

Welcoming the investment, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the investment would not only “help attract more tourists to Scotland”, but that it also underlines the “fundamental importance of the whisky sector to Scotland’s economy”.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “Whisky is hugely important to Scotland’s economy, it is not just our biggest export, but an iconic product which draws visitors here from around the world. The UK Government is wholehearted in its support for the industry – we froze duty rates again at the last Budget, and are determined to open up new markets around the world as we leave the EU. I welcome Diageo’s major new investment. It is hugely exciting, not just for Scotland but for whisky drinkers around the world who want to learn more about the history and traditions of our national drink.”

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David Cutter, Chairman of Diageo in Scotland said, “Over the past six years we have invested over £1billion in building our Scotch whisky production infrastructure to grow exports of Scotch around the world. With this new investment, we turn our focus to bringing the world to Scotland. This will not only build the Scotch whisky industry it will bring economic benefits to communities throughout Scotland.”

Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo Global Scotch Whisky Director said, “Scotch is the world’s favourite whisky and Scotland is the greatest distilling nation on earth. New generations of consumers around the world are falling in love with Scotch and they want to experience it in the place where it is made and meet the people who make it. This investment will ensure that the people we attract to Scotland from around the world go home as life-long ambassadors for Scotch and for Scotland.”

• READ MORE: Scotch whisky tourism has enjoyed another boom year, according to drinks giant Diageo


Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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