Johnnie Walker pledges to build ‘best bar in the world’ in Edinburgh

Whisky giants Johnnie Walker have vowed to create the “best bar in the world” overlooking Edinburgh Castle - with planned Princes Street attraction by Christmas 2020.

It has pencilled in next November for the opening of an “accessible luxury” attraction in the former House of Fraser store on Princes Street.

They have pledged unbeatable “360 degree views” of the city will be on offer in a rooftop extension planned for the west end landmark.

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The bar, which will boast an outdoor terrace at one end, will offer views west down Shandwick Place and north to the Firth of Forth.

A computer-generated image of how the Johnnie Walker visitor attraction will look in the former House of Fraser store in Princes Street
A computer-generated image of how the Johnnie Walker visitor attraction will look in the former House of Fraser store in Princes Street

It is expected to be one of the main attractions for what is planned to be “a new cultural and social hub for Edinburgh and Scotland.”

But senior executives say it will also be targeted at “high net worth individuals” who will have their own VIP experiences created for then.

In a presentation for tourism industry leaders, Greg Klingaman, global reserve retail director at Diageo, said the attraction would be targeted at “quality visitors” who would spend money throughout the city and across Scotland.

He added: “We want this to be a new cultural and social hub for Edinburgh and Scotland. We want to have things that people locally will be interested in, including our 250-capacity events space, which will be available for concerts, theatre and festivals. We understand a lot of spaces for these things in the city have gone over the years.

“The rooftop bar will basically have 360 views all round Edinburgh. You won’t find anywhere with better views than this anywhere else in the city.

“We will be shouting from the rooftops about our aspirations to be the best whisky experience in the world and have the best bar in the world.”

The bar will be divided into two and will dominate the sixth floor of “Johnnie Walker Edinburgh,” confirmed last year for the site by the whisky brand’s parent company Diageo under £150m worth of new investment in Scotland.

Mr Klingaman added: “We’re really excited about what we’re doing in Edinburgh. It’s going to be much more than a whisky tour. We’re not just taking over a few floors of this building. We have 7000 square metres to work with. With a brand the size of Johnnie Walker our feeling was: ‘Go big or go home.’ That’s what we’ve done.

“We’re drawing inspiration from the Guinness Storehouse, but this will be different, more guide-led, with smaller groups, and more personal. The Guinness Storehouse gets more than 1.7 million visitors a year. We’re not targeting those kinds of numbers.

“We’re targeting the quality visitor who will spend money throughout the city and hopefully throughout Scotland.

“Everything we are doing will be about accessible luxury. But we also have certain clients that are very discerning. We have a lot of what we would call high net worth individuals who are very interested in this scheme. We will have a separate experience for them.”

Plans submitted to the city council as part of the application for the Princes Street site state: “Johnnie Walker Edinburgh is a full-sensory, emotionally-engaging, and transformative journey firmly based in the brand’s DNA as creative pioneers of whisky, ideas, and social connection.

“It’s a bold world of exploration into history and storytelling, senses and flavours, culture and landscape, celebration and friendship.

“It offers a personalised experience to a wide range of guests, from the dram loyalist to the innovative cocktail enthusiast to the aficionado of alcohol-free concoctions.

“Johnnie Walker Edinburgh is a journey of discovery, where visitors learn more about whisky, Scotland,and themselves.

“Firmly rooted in 200 years of pioneering character, bold creativity, and delicious whisky creations, the brand home transforms the traditional image of Scotch as an exclusive spirit into an inclusive community that welcomes all to share in the enjoyment of life.

“Johnnie Walker Edinburgh recognises that the world is better when we learn, share,and have fun with others. It beckons guests to the Johnnie Walker community of travellers with a promise of adventure via a sociable call to action.”