Green light for whisky visitor centre revamp in East Lothian

Plans to transform Glenkinchie Distillery visitor experience have been approved.
Plans to transform Glenkinchie Distillery visitor experience have been approved.
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Whisky connoisseurs will be able to enjoy a dram at a revamped visitor centre as part of an overhaul to a distillery.

Work is set to start at Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian in the new year on a major transformation project after planners gave the proposals the thumbs up.

Following the green light from East Lothian Council, Glenkinchie’s Victorian-era red brick warehouse buildings will be turned into a multi-storey cultural and sensory visitor experience. The company hopes the updated venue will help tell past stories of Glenkinchie while highlighting its 125-year partnership with Johnnie Walker and its flavour contributions to the world’s number one Scotch whisky.

Plans have also been tabled to bring a Johnnie Walker visitor centre to the West End of the Capital – with the Glenkinchie venue feeding into that project. Glenkinchie is one of a number of Diageo distilleries that will see major work 
undertaken as part of investment plans totalling more than £185 million across Scotland including 12 distillery visitor centres and the revival of the iconic lost distilleries of Port Ellen and Brora.

Whisky from Diageo’s distilleries all over Scotland contribute to Johnnie Walker, but four distilleries – Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish – will be linked directly to the Johnnie Walker venue at the former iconic Edinburgh Fraser’s building, representing the “four corners of Scotland” and the regional flavour variations crucial to the art of whisky blending.

Ramsay Borthwick, manager of Glenkinchie Distillery, said: “We would like to thank East Lothian Council and all our neighbours for their support with this development. This is not only a major project for Glenkinchie Distillery, it will enhance the whole economy of East Lothian, attracting more visitors to the area.

“This is a very exciting time for Glenkinchie and to have permission granted before the New Year is perfect timing. Everyone involved is eager to get started with the work to transform the distillery and establish Glenkinchie as a must-visit tourist attraction in Scotland.”

The expanded footprint will include a welcome lounge, upgraded retail unit, bar and cocktail making classroom, tasting rooms and a cask draw experience. The famous Glenkinchie scale-model whisky distillery – originally built for the 1925 Empire Exhibition, will be updated with new digital and interactive storytelling elements. A number of buildings will be demolished to create landscaped gardens at the approach to the visitor experience.

Glenkinchie is a key part of the Johnnie Walker single malt portfolio, providing the light, floral, classic lowland style of single malt for Johnnie Walker scotch whiskies.

Glenkinchie Distillery has a long history of association with Johnnie Walker, with stock books from 1894 listing Glenkinchie among the single malts going into the Walker blending inventory.