With the news that the distillery was drinks giant Diageo's busiest Scotch attraction last year with a record 75,234 visitors, and that last year was a bumper year for whisky tourism, the brand are investing steadily to improve their distillery visitor experience.
This has resulted in the unique new Scotch whisky tasting bar being built at Blair Athol.
The new addition is described as "taking the concept of a whisky tasting bar to a whole new level", and will serve Diageo’s best drams in a setting which is the "embodiment of the art and craft of Scotch whisky-making".
Inspired by the innovative concept of “up-cycling”, coppersmiths from Diageo Abercrombie in Alloa, who are usually employed making copper potstills for whisky production, took a redundant mash tun – a massive cylindrical copper and cast-iron vessel used in whisky distilling – and transformed it into the bespoke whisky tasting bar which will now be the centre-piece of Blair Athol’s visitor centre.
The concept for the bar came from Edinburgh-based design and production consultancy Great Brink, who worked with the coppersmiths to re-imagine the mash tun into a magnificent, experiential tasting bar.
James Strong, who led the design team, said: “It was a true privilege for our team of artisans to work with Diageo’s coppersmiths on this project and a joy to see our design for the bar brought to fruition by exceptional craftspeople.
“To maintain authenticity we repurposed as many of the original features of the mash tun as possible, from the copper top and cast iron walls to the ‘lauter’ arms and brass windows, all have been used as details which make this an exceptionally intricate, purpose-built Scotch whisky bar.
“It’s been really gratifying to see this piece of heritage distilling equipment, which had completed its working service making whisky, given a new lease of life serving the product it was once part of creating.”
Jill Scougall, Blair Athol Distillery Visitor Centre Manager, said: “We aim to immerse our visitors in every aspect of the art of making Scotch whisky from distilling to tasting. Having a whisky bar, hand-crafted by our coppersmiths from old distilling equipment is something special, and will add to the visitor experience in a way we hope will delight and inspire new generations of whisky lovers.”
Alex Begg, the senior charge hand coppersmith who oversaw the work on the bar, said: “Our trade is making copper stills and equipment for the production of Scotch whisky, so it was a bit of a change to be asked to create a piece of equipment for serving the final product. Although we used many of the same skills and techniques we employ when making copper stills to sculpt the copper surface of the bar. We hope it will be enjoyed by everyone who visits Blair Athol.”
The mash tun which was used to create the bar was originally from Diageo’s Clynelish Distillery in Brora on the north east coast of Scotland.
It had been replaced during a major refurbishment of the distillery and rather than scrap it, the decision was taken to transform it into the Blair Athol tasting bar.
The bar will be open to the public from Friday 7 July 2017, serving a selection of products from Diageo’s Special Release Range, including rare and exclusive bottlings.