Diageo gets nod for biggest ever investment in Scotch whisky tourism

Diageo has sealed what is said to be the biggest investment programme ever seen in Scotch whisky tourism after being given the green light to transform a Speyside distillery.

An artist's impression of the planned upgrade to Carhu Distillery, for which Diageo has secured planning permission.
An artist's impression of the planned upgrade to Carhu Distillery, for which Diageo has secured planning permission.

The Johnnie Walker owner has passed a major milestone in its planned £150 million investment in a range of whisky visitor attractions by securing planning permission to upgrade the Cardhu Distillery, the final part of the project to gain approval.

Scotland’s biggest distiller plans to create a flagship Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh and renovate four distilleries representing “the four corners of Scotland” as part of the bumper investment.

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This will include renovations at Glenkinchie in East Lothian, Caol Ila on Islay and Clynelish near Brora, as the group looks to capitalise on the boom in whisky tourism.

Cardhu, near Archiestown in Moray, has a strong link with the almost 200-year history of Johnnie Walker and still produces one of the key single malts used in the making of the blended whisky, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year.

It was the first distillery to be acquired by John Walker & Sons in 1893 to secure the supply of its single malt.

Under the proposals, the visitor experience at Cardhu will tell the story of Helen and Elizabeth Cumming, who established and ran the distillery in the 19th century, as well as the connections to the Walker family.

The Scotch Whisky Association revealed visits to Scottish distilleries hit a record high in 2018, increasing by 6.1 per cent from the previous year.

Diageo is also investing a further £35m to reopen the iconic distilleries of Port Ellen and Brora.

David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, said: “This gives us the green light on all of our key Johnnie Walker tourism investment projects from Edinburgh to the four corners of Scotland.

“Together these locations 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.”

Laura Sharp, Cardhu Distillery brand home manager, said: “This announcement is very exciting and we want to thank Moray Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.

“This is an important step forward on our journey to transform Cardhu’s visitor experience and everyone involved is very much looking forward to work getting underway.

“Speyside is a hugely important part of the Scotch whisky tourism map and we are very excited to bring new visitors to the region.”

Diageo last month revealed a 9 per cent jump in operating profits to £4 billion for the year to 30 June. The drinks giant also hailed strong growth for Johnnie Walker, which saw sales rise by 7 per cent, while global revenues from Scotch increased by 6 per cent.