Caol Ila Distillery to be transformed and linked to Johnnie Walker Edinburgh attraction

A key milestone has been reached in the journey to transform the Caol Ila Distillery visitor experience after Argyll & Bute Council formally granted planning permission for the development.

Published 29th Apr 2019
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

The Caol Ila Distillery will be transformed to make the most of the location, as well as being linked to the Johnnie Walker attraction in Edinburgh.

With the green light given from planners, work is now expected to begin on the expansion of the distillery visitor experience over the next few weeks.

The plans are part of a £150m investment in Scotch whisky tourism by Diageo, focused on the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker.

Under the investment plans, Caol Ila will become the Islay home of Johnnie Walker and will be thematically linked to a new global Johnnie Walker visitor attraction in Edinburgh.

Caol Ila has made single malt Scotch whisky for Johnnie Walker for over a century and today it continues to provide the key smoky, peaty flavour that is a signature characteristic of the brand.

The plans will see a new state-of-the-art visitor experience created inside the beautiful shore-side Caol Ila warehouse, including a bar that takes full advantage of the beautiful views across the Sound of Islay.

A new foot-bridge will allow guests to enter the roof of the distillery warehouse, linking to new parking facilities on the hill above the distillery. This will be discreetly located and carefully landscaped to manage visual impact and traffic movement.

Leigh Aitken, Caol Ila Distillery Brand Home Manager, said: “This is very exciting news and we want to thank Argyll & Bute Council and all our neighbours for their support. Everyone involved is now very much looking forward to work getting underway.

“This is a major investment project that will not only transform the Caol Ila visitor experience, but will add further to Islay’s reputation as the greatest whisky island in the world.”

Caol Ila is one of a number of Diageo distilleries that will see major work undertaken as part investment plans totalling more than £185 million across Scotland. This includes the £150 million investment in the new global visitor attraction for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh, as well as investment in 12 distillery brand homes, and the £35 million investment in the revival of the iconic lost distilleries of Port Ellen and Brora.

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Whisky from Diageo’s distilleries all over Scotland contribute to Johnnie Walker, but four distilleries - Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish - will be linked directly to the Johnnie Walker venue in Edinburgh, representing the ‘four corners of Scotland’ and the regional flavour variations crucial to the art of whisky blending.

Together these sites will create a unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland, encouraging visitors to the capital city to also travel to the country’s extraordinary rural communities.

It was announced late last year that Diageo was planning to take over the now closed House of Fraser site on Princes Street in Edinburgh, and transform it into a global visitor attraction for Johnnie Walker.

The plans include a seven-storey Johnnie Walker complex complete with roof-top bars boasting views of the city’s skyline. The attraction is set to potentially create up to 180 jobs and generate £135 million a year for the capital's economy.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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