Listen now: Scotch Whisky Experience – evolution, investment and its role in whisky careers

The much-loved tour, located a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle, has been wowing visitors for over 30 years. Rosalind Erskine went along to see the new tour experience, following a £3.5 million investment, and find out how the business has shaped careers of those in the industry today.

If you live in Edinburgh, you’d be forgiven for not seeing the city as tourists do. When was the last time you visited the castle, had a wander up Arthur’s Seat or popped into Our Dynamic Earth? One spot that should be on every whisky fan’s list (or the whisky curious), is the Scotch Whisky Experience. Nestled on Castlehill, within a stone’s throw of Edinburgh Castle, the Scotch Whisky Experience (SWE) has been welcoming visitors from all over the world since the late 80s - a time when the world of whisky was very, very different to what it is now. On our most recent partner episode of Scran, I went along to experience the tour for the first time, and chat to two former members of staff about how their time at the SWE shaped their career paths. I also spoke to Angela Dineen, Operations Director about the history of the experience as well as modern undertakings, including the recent investment of £3.5m into a new tour and how it houses one of the world's largest collections of Scotch whisky.

Angela explained the history of the experience, saying: “The Scotch Whisky Experience exists to make the world fall in love with Scotch whisky. Back in 1988, our founder, Alastair McIntosh, approached a number of the distillers at that time, with a view to creating an attraction in the capital city to learn about our national drink. It’s hard to imagine now, but at that time, very few distilleries were open to visitors. "

“A lot of people who came to Scotland didn't really travel much further north than the Perthshire area, so didn't even have access to visit the distilleries. The idea was that we set up something here, right in Edinburgh, where people could come and learn about Scotch whisky.”


The experience has changed and evolved, more recently with a £3.5M investment in the tour, which houses one of the world’s largest whisky collections. Of this Angela said: “There’s continuous investment, we’re always looking to just offer the best experience to our visitors. I've seen so many different transformations. It’s almost unrecognisable to the place I joined back in 2002. But I think this recent investment - we just invested £3.5 million into our new tour area - has been such a phenomenal project to be involved in. There's been so many different designers and trades involved in delivering this. We're just so proud of the end result.”

Angela started as a tour guide, but is still at the business over 20 years later. She said: “Very quickly, when I started working here, I realised how much I enjoyed it. I love meeting people from all over the world. I love talking to people about Scotch whisky.” Former members of staff include Michelle Pizzi, Site Director of The North British Distillery and Alex Thomson, Visitor Attraction Manager at The Glenturret Distillery who share with me their memories of their time working at the Scotch Whisky Experience and how it helped shape their future careers in the industry. While Alex joined as a student, Michelle came to Scotland after having done a wine degree in France. It was while studying at Heriot Watt that she discovered the joys of whisky and ended up finding her way to the experience. Both discuss the friendships carved as well as knowledge gained, and how nice it is to return to help the current staff with tastings or arrange site visits.

To listen to this episode, listen here or search Scran wherever you get your podcasts.

Find out more about the Scotch Whisky Experience here