Diageo’s new eight-floor Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience in Edinburgh is launched today.
The site is the centrepiece of Diageo’s £185 million pound investment in Scotch whisky tourism in Scotland, which is claimed to be the “largest single investment programme of its kind seen in Scotch whisky tourism”.
To mark the opening a Johnnie Walker flag was raised above the landmark building by Ivan Menezes, chief executive, Diageo, and Barbara Smith, managing director of Johnnie Walker Princes Street, against the Edinburgh backdrop.
Mr Menezes said: “This is a proud day for everyone. Last year Johnnie Walker celebrated 200 years since founder John Walker opened the doors to his small grocery store and today represents the next chapter of the incredible story.
“Johnnie Walker Princes Street is a landmark investment in Scotch whisky and into Scotland and it sets a new standard for immersive visitor attractions. It celebrates Scotland’s remarkable heritage, our incredible skilled whisky-makers, and looks to the future by engaging new generations of consumers from around the world in the magic of Scotch whisky.”
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It marks over four years of preparation and will see over 150 new employees, speaking 23 languages between them, “bring to life the 200-year story” in what is described as the world’s best-selling whisky.
The cellar has become a “true whisky treasury” with some of the most unique whisky casks in the world gently maturing and waiting to be sampled by guests.
The building – formerly House of Fraser department store and before that Binns – will contain an experiential retail space where shoppers can select from rare and exclusive whiskies, fill their own bottles and have them personalised.
Johnnie Walker Princes Street opens its doors with a Green Tourism Gold Award – the highest sustainability accolade for a visitor attraction. The building includes roof terrace planters to provide herbs for garnishes and infusions for drinks, a sedum roof covering and bird boxes to encourage biodiversity.
The site also has two rooftop bars and a terrace with views of the Edinburgh skyline, including the Explorers’ Bothy whisky bar stocked with 150 different whiskies, and the 1820 cocktail bar where drinks are paired with a curated menu sourced from, and representing in culinary form, the four corners of Scotland.
Diageo said it is also committed to contributing to the community by offering its award-winning hospitality training programme for unemployed people in its special Johnnie Walker Learning for Life academy. The building can also host events in its 200-capacity space.
Ms Smith said: “We’re thrilled to be opening the doors and helping to re-build the tourism and hospitality industry after a very difficult 18 months. The story of the world’s best-selling whisky has been brought to life with flair and imagination and we have built a team which includes some of the most talented individuals in their fields. We are now ready to welcome visitors and begin telling the next chapter of how we are woven into the fabric of Scotland’s history and communities.”
In 2019, the Scotch Whisky industry attracted a record 2.16 million visitors and Johnnie Walker Princes Street, and Diageo’s £185m tourism investment programme aims to help rebuild Scotch whisky tourism for the future. The investment includes the transformation of distillery visitor experiences around Scotland, including Glenkinchie, Clynelish, Cardhu and Caol Ila – the Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Islay homes of Johnnie Walker, linked to Johnnie Walker Princes Street to form a world-class network of attractions the length and breadth of Scotland.
Malcolm Roughead, of VisitScotland, said: “Johnnie Walker Princes Street is an exceptional addition to Edinburgh’s world-class experiences, demonstrating the confidence international brands have in the capital city whilst supporting the Scottish tourism recovery.”
Johnnie Walker Princes Street will open its doors to the public at 1pm on Monday 6th September.