Johnnie Walker site leads £150m Diageo investment

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Whisky business: Diageo's multimillion-pound Johnnie Walker visitor centre will spearhead a huge investment in Scottish whisky tourism
Whisky business: Diageo's multimillion-pound Johnnie Walker visitor centre will spearhead a huge investment in Scottish whisky tourism
Spirits giant Diageo has submitted plans to transform a landmark Edinburgh site into a global visitor centre for whisky brand Johnnie Walker.

The plans, jointly submitted to City of Edinburgh Council by Diageo and building owner Parabola, outline a Johnnie Walker visitor centre intended to be the focal point of Diageo’s £150m investment in Scottish Whisky tourism.

Diageo plans to restore the Princes Street site to include an immersive visitor experience across three floors, guiding people through two centuries of Johnnie Walker, the art and science of whisky making, and the distinct regional the flavours of Scotland.

Moreover, the seven-storey site will also house a flexible events space for music, theatre, arts and community events, a bar academy that will host Diageo’s award-winning Learning for Life programme as well as rooftop bars offering views of Edinburgh Castle and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Edinburgh Old and New Towns.

It’s estimated that the site will generate between 160 and 180 full-time equivalent jobs and in the region of £135m in tourism.

Diageo’s announcement follows news reported by The Morning Advertiser​ that The Lakes Distillery at Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District and the Cotswold Distillery, in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, had been recognised by VisitEngland​ in its annual Attractions Accolades – recognising a total of seven breweries, wineries and distilleries among the nation’s top tourist attractions.

Passionate and skilled

The drinks maker is currently investing more than £185m in Scotch whisky experiences across Scotland, with Diageo transforming its existing 12 distillery attractions across Scotland, in addition to the creation of a home for Johnnie Walker in central Edinburgh.

Additionally, plans are also afoot to reopen iconic distilleries at Port Ellen and Brora in a combined £35m investment.

Commenting on the visitor centre project, David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, explained that he was “incredibly excited” to submit plans for the Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh.

“The location is one of Edinburgh’s most exceptional landmark buildings and we plan to restore it to its former glory as a cornerstone of the city and a thriving part of its cultural and social life,” he explained.

“We have the most passionate and skilled whisky-makers in the world here in Scotland and we want to celebrate their craft and everything that is great about Scotland and whisky.”

Flagship attraction

Diageo’s global Scotch whisky director Cristina Diezhandino added: “Johnnie Walker is the leading international whisky brand, with truly global reach and we believe our plans will create a flagship attraction that will bring people to Scotland from the four corners of the world.

“Our ambition is to create a visitor experience that will rank not only as one of the greatest whisky attractions of the world, but one of the greatest brand attractions in any industry, putting Scotland at the forefront of the global boom in experiential travel.”

As reported by The Morning Advertiser​, a recent partnership between Diageo and HBO series Game of Thrones​ in October 2018 contributed to 6% sales growth for Johnnie Walker​ in the half year to 31 December 2018.

The limited edition ‘White Walker by Johnnie Walker’ sold one bottle per minute on Amazon UK in its first 24 hours on sale according to Diageo.

Tony Hordon, managing director of building owner Parabola added: “At Parabola, we feel like the custodians of a beautiful piece of Edinburgh real estate and we have taken great care to consider its future. 146 Princes Street represents an opportunity to deliver our core values: place, quality and destination.

“With Diageo and their vision, we believe we have a use that will not only protect the building for many years to come, but it also celebrates the building, its history and its heritage.

“We are particularly excited to be working with the Diageo team given our shared values and our sheer ambition to celebrate one of Edinburgh’s great buildings.”

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