Drink giant Diageo has given people living near two of its distilleries a first glimpse of plans to transform their visitor facilities as part of its £150 million investment in whisky tourism.
Cardhu, in Speyside, and Clynelish, at Brora, will form part of a network of attractions focusing on the world’s best-selling Scotch, Johnnie Walker.
Along with Caol Ila distillery, on the Inner Hebridean island of Islay, and Glenkinchie, in East Lothian, they will be linked to a “visitor experience” Diageo plans to develop on Edinburgh’s Princess Street devoted to the brand.
In 1893, Cardhu, near Knockando, became the first distillery acquired by John Walker and Sons to secure supply of its single malt for the blend.
Under Diageo’s plans, the visitor centre there will be re-developed and highlight the story of Helen and Elizabeth Cumming, who established and ran it in the 19th century, as well as the distillery’s links with the Walker family.
The plans also include external landscaping and the creation of a new orchard space for visitors.
Cardhu brand home manager Laura Sharp said Diageo’s investment would “add another jewel to Speyside’s whisky tourism crown.”
Diageo said Clynelish, on the Sutherland coast 60 miles north of Inverness, would become the “Highland home of Johnnie Walker.”
As part of a “comprehensive upgrade” of the visitor facilities, a new upper floor will be added, with exhibitions and a bar and tasting area.
Landscaping work will also be carried out at the site it shares with Brora Distillery, which is being brought back into production after having been closed since 1983.
Clynelish brand home manager Jacqueline James-Bow said: “Tourism is an increasingly important part of the Highland economy, and Scotch whisky tourism is one of the major attractions driving economic growth in rural communities such as Brora.
“With the work we are already doing at Brora Distillery and that we plan to do at Clynelish, we are bringing major investment and creating exciting new economic opportunities for the community.”
The plans were shown to local residents and community representatives at the distilleries this week.
Work on both upgrade projects is due to start later this year if they are granted planning permission.