AMBITIOUS plans were announced today to develop the tourist potential of Speyside’s booming whisky industry to secure the same iconic status as the Champagne region of France.
Moray’s parliamentarians, Angus Robertson MP and Richard Lochhead MSP, have invited the new chief executives of drinks giants Diageo and Chivas Brothers to meetings in the heartland of Scotland’s malt whisky producing region to discuss plans for a co-ordinated drive to transform Speyside into a worldwide tourist destination.
More than half of the Scotch whisky distilleries owned by Diageo and Chivas Brothers are located in Moray, and the single-malt whiskies produced in Speyside are the key ingredients for many of Scotland’s most popular blended whiskies.
And last November, drinks giant the Edrington Group announced plans to invest £100 million in a new distillery and visitor centre for The Macallan, one of the world’s leading single malts, in a major boost for the Moray economy.
Mr Robertson said today that he and Mr Lochhead were inviting Ivan Menezes, chief executive of Diageo, and Laurent Lacassagne, chief executive of Pernod Ricard, the group which own Chivas Brothers, to a summit meeting on Speyside, following recent discussion with senior managers from Edrington Group about coordinating future plans for the joint promotion of Speyside and brands of Scotch whisky produced in Speyside.
Mr Robertson, who is vice-chairman of the Westminster Parliament’s Whisky Industry Group said: “Speyside is the foremost malt-whisky producing region of Scotland and there is a great future for the brands produced here.
“It makes sense to properly coordinate between the industry and the region to make sure everything is being done to the benefit of the industry, whisky brands and the locality.”
He continued: “Given the importance of Speyside to both Diageo and Pernod Ricard, which owns Chivas Brothers, I’m sure their senior management will be delighted to take part. I look forward to also discussing this with the new chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association David Frost later this week.”
Mr Lochhead, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, said: “Speyside is one of the leading drink and food regions in the world, and we must aspire to match regions such as Champagne, Rioja and Napa Valley.
“Discussions have taken place in recent years to properly coordinate different stakeholders in Speyside and it would be excellent to discuss this directly with the new chief executives of Diageo and Chivas Brothers.”
He added: “There is huge global potential for the whisky industry and Speyside in the years to come. It makes perfect sense to coordinate this properly.”
Councillor John Cowe, chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership, welcomed the initiative. He said: “I think it’s a greatly iconic area. There is the Champagne region for France - and Moray is most definitely our whisky area.”
He added: “The Moray Economic Partnership and economic development team are working very hard to get not just Speyside on the map, but the whole of Moray. The whisky industry is booming.”