DRINKS giant Diageo today reaffirmed its commitment to a £185 million investment programme in whisky and tourism as it opened the online doors to its flagship visitor project, the Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh’s West End.
Construction work to convert the former House of Fraser store in Princes Street into the huge new attraction restarted in June following a three-month pause during the Covid lockdown, but work continued to create new website which the company launched today – www.johnniewalkerprincesstreet.com.
Diageo says it is keeping the detailed plans for inside the eight-story building a tightly guarded secret, but the development will include a multi-sensory, immersive visitor experience across three floors, guiding people through the 200 year history and the flavours of Scotland; a flexible events space for staging music, theatre, arts and community events; and roof-top bars with stunning views of the Castle and the city skyline as well as retail space on the ground floor.
It will also include a training academy offering training and employment opportunities in the hospitality industry for unemployed people, and working to improve hospitality standards.
The attraction had been due for completion by the end of this year but due to the Covid shutdown it is now expected to open its doors to visitors in summer 2021.
Barbara Smith, managing director of Johnnie Walker Princes Street, said: “The last few months have been so difficult and disruptive for everyone and we know there is still a long way to go, but we keep walking with confidence and we are looking to the future with positivity.
“Johnnie Walker Princes Street is progressing well following the restart of construction and we are delighted to be launching our website so that our future guests can share in the excitement and anticipation we feel as we build towards opening our doors to visitors next year.”
The investment in the Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh and transforming Diageo’s existing 12 distillery visitor attractions across Scotland adds up to £150 million with a further £35 million invested in reopening the “lost” distilleries of Port Ellen and Brora.
Ewan Andrew, Diageo’s global president responsible for Diageo’s capital investment in the sector said the commitment to Scotch whisky and Scottish tourism was stronger than ever.
He said: “With 200 years of history Johnnie Walker has experienced many societal challenges and times of recovery, which is why the spirit of progress in the face of adversity is built into the DNA of the brand.
“The investment we are making in Johnnie Walker Princes Street and our whisky distilleries in rural communities throughout Scotland will not only help us to emerge stronger from this crisis, we believe it will make a major contribution to the recovery in Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole.”
Donald Emslie, chair of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group welcomed Diageo’s commitment. He said: "The news of the restart of Diageo’s Johnnie Walker development is very welcome indeed and signals a real confidence in the future of Edinburgh and its visitor economy. Given the uncertainty around the future of the retail sector more generally, investments like this will be key to transforming our city centre into the vibrant and thriving place we all want it to be for the benefit of our residents, visitors and employers.”
The new Johnnie Walker Princes Street website gives people the opportunity to find out more about pre-sale tickets and get updates on the project.