Scotch whisky tourism is a real thing, attracting a record 2.16 million visitors in 2019. And if the recently opened, eight-floor Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience in Edinburgh for the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky is anything to go by, the optimism for future growth is justified.
Four and a half years in the making, Johnnie Walker Princes Street – located in the heart of Scotland’s capital – is the centrepiece of Diageo’s 185-million-pound investment in Scotch whisky tourism in Scotland; the largest single investment of its kind ever seen. Set over 6,640 square metres, the visitor centre uses world-first technology to reimagine the traditional whisky tour experience.
Visitors are taken on a personalised journey of discovery, which identifies unique flavours and tastes tailored to them, and learn about the fascinating 200-year-old journey brought to life by actors. With more than 800 flavour combinations available in innovative dispensation systems, one person could visit Johnnie Walker Princes Street every day for more than two years and not have the same experience twice.
The building – formerly a traditional department store for almost 100 years – contains a state-of-the-art experiential retail space where shoppers can select from the most unique and exclusive whiskies, fill bottles direct from casks, and have them engraved. The cellar has become a true whisky treasury with some of the most unique casks whisky in the world gently maturing and waiting to be sampled.
“This is a proud day for everyone,” says Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive of Diageo. “Last year Johnnie Walker celebrated 200 years since founder John Walker opened the doors to his small grocery store, and today represents the next chapter of the incredible story. Johnnie Walker Princes Street is a landmark investment in Scotch whisky and into Scotland, and it sets a new standard for immersive visitor attractions. It celebrates Scotland’s remarkable heritage, our incredible skilled whisky-makers, and looks to the future by engaging new generations of consumers from around the world in the magic of Scotch whisky.”
Johnnie Walker Princes Street opens its doors with a Green Tourism Gold Award – the highest sustainability accolade for a visitor attraction. The building includes roof terrace planters which will provide herbs for garnishes and infusions for drinks, a sedum roof covering, and bird boxes to encourage biodiversity.
The facility is crowned by two world-class rooftop bars and a terrace with breath-taking views of the Edinburgh skyline, including the Explorers’ Bothy whisky bar stocked with 150 different whiskies, and the 1820 cocktail bar where drinks are paired with a carefully curated menu sourced from, and representing in culinary form, the four corners of Scotland.
Diageo’s investment programme aims to rebuild Scotch whisky tourism for the future. The investment includes the transformation of distillery visitor experiences around Scotland, including Glenkinchie, Clynelish, Cardhu and Caol Ila – the Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Islay homes of Johnnie Walker, linked to Johnnie Walker Princes Street to form a world-class network of attractions the length and breadth of Scotland.
This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Prestige Thailand.