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Glenkinchie distillery reopens after refurbishment - here's what to expect from a tour

Glenkinchie Distillery, known as the lowland home of Johnnie Walker, has reopened after a multi-million pound refurbishment by owners Diageo.

Published: November 2, 2020
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Glenkinchie, the single malt distillery in East Lothian – a region famed as the garden of Scotland for its quality food and drink produce - opened the gates after refurbishment of its visitor attraction as part of a £185million investment in Scotch whisky experiences by Diageo.

Glenkinchie, the Lowland Home of Johnnie Walker, is the first of the four corner distilleries around Scotland that will form a network of whisky visitor experiences linked to the Johnnie Walker Princes Street attraction in Edinburgh, planned to open next summer.

The Glenkinchie refurbishment

The Glenkinchie Distillery attraction is centred around a beautiful landscaped garden – carefully curated to reflect the local rural environment – and an immersive guest experience in the distillery’s traditional Victorian red brick warehouses.

Barbara Smith, managing director of Brand Homes for Diageo in Scotland, officially declared the new visitor experience open with the ceremonial planting of a tree to complete the garden and to represent the future growth of Scotch whisky and tourism.

She said: “The opening of the wonderful new visitor experience and garden at Glenkinchie is the first step in our long-term £185million investment in whisky tourism in Scotland.

“We are acutely aware of the difficult times many people are going through, particularly our colleagues in the tourism and hospitality sector across Scotland.

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"We know there’s a long way to go and a lot of uncertainty ahead. Still, we believe in the resilience of our business and our communities, and we will be doing all we can through our investment to sow the seeds of recovery and future growth.”

Ramsay Borthwick, Glenkinchie distillery manager, said: “Glenkinchie will give people a thrilling first taste of the new visitor experiences we are creating across Scotland.

“We will be offering people an experience like no other distillery in Scotland at Glenkinchie and that will be followed as we transform Clynelish, Cardhu and Caol Ila over the coming months, and as we build towards the opening of our global Johnnie Walker Princes Street attraction in Edinburgh next summer.”

The tours

Subject to government guidance on COVID-19, Glenkinchie will open to the public from Thursday 29 October, and tours can be booked online

Along with Diageo’s full network of distillery visitor experiences across Scotland, tours operate according to strict Covid-19 protocols to protect guests, employees and the local community.

The distillery is accredited by VisitScotland’s “Good To Go” scheme in the verification of its Covid procedures.

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The Glenkinchie refurbishment was created by BRC Imagination Arts - a global design and production agency, known for its work on major visitor experiences including the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

The new tours include full sensory experiences, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the history, craft and flavour of whisky.

Highlighting the single malt’s light floral profile, the new look brand home features an abundant garden area with an orchard and specially selected plants native to the East Lothian region and planted to create year-round seasonal variations.

The new visitor experience has been created in the distillery’s red brick Victorian warehouses, in which guests are taken on a journey through Glenkinchie’s rich heritage, its generations of passionate whisky makers and its flavour creation process.

On arrival, visitors will walk to the distillery through the new garden. The new gift shop is to the left of reception and is a bright open space with Scandi style furniture, fresh flowers and, of course, an array of whisky bottles and gift sets.

After a look at a traditional still and a beautiful wall of wild flowers, visitors will take a step into a new room designed to fully showcase the lowland single malt.

The interactive element begins in this room, with a sensory journey of Glenkinchie's history and flavour profiles, with bell jars of scents sparking discussion among a tour group.

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The tour then continues with a look at the distillery in miniature before a walk through the distillation processes.

As the building was once a warehouse, the tour ends in a small preserved area full of casks. Visitors are then led to a tasting room where they can enjoy the whisky and discover Glenkinchie single malts.

A bar area serving tasting platters, whisky highballs and a selection of dram flights is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy views of the garden.

The new brand home will offer a range of specialist tours and events including a Glenkinchie Flavour Journey; Whisky in the Wild tour; Warehouse and Cask Tour; Flowers and Cocktails Class and a Behind the Scenes Tour and Tasting.

Glenkinchie has also been designed to operate to the highest standards of sustainably and was recently presented with a Gold Award by Green Tourism, the highest environmental accolade for visitor attractions.

To ensure the new brand home is accessible for everyone, Diageo has taken expert advice from Euan’s Guide, the leading information source for accessibility in visitor attractions.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related.

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