Scotland’s proud whisky heritage has attracted a record number of people through the doors of Diageo’s distilleries around the country.
The global drink giant said yesterday its 12 visitor centres broke through the 400,000 mark for the first time during the year to June 30.
A total of 409,908 people were welcomed, which was up nearly 8% on the previous year.
Blair Athol Distillery in Perthshire was the most popular site, bringing in 75,234.
Talisker, on Skye, and Dalwhinnie – on the edge of Cairngorms National Park – were the second and third most visited with 72,682 and 53,345 respectively.
Oban Distillery was next with 49,364 and Glenkinchie, in East Lothian, with 45,749, completed the top five.
The boom year was celebrated at Blair Athol yesterday as VisitScotland chief executive officially opened a new whisky-tasting bar.
Mr Roughhead said: “Whisky is one of Scotland’s most valuable commodities, with visitors from all over the world coming to our shores to experience an authentic Scottish dram.
“Scotland’s reputation as a quality destination relies on continued investment and innovation.
“This new whisky tasting bar at Blair Athol is a fantastic example of how the industry is working to attract new visitors and continue its vital contribution to the Scottish economy.”
Announcing the record-breaking visitor figures, Diageo Scotland director Ewan Andrew said: “Scotch whisky is not only the country’s most valuable export industry, it’s the world’s most popular spirit – attracting visitors from around the globe to Scotland.
“That’s great for our distilleries but it also makes a major contribution to the local economies and communities where we operate.
“We have seen visitor numbers increasing rapidly over recent years as global Scotch sales have grown.
“We’re investing to ensure Scotch continues to grow and that we welcome even more visitors to Scotland in the years ahead.”
Diageo – whose whisky brands include brands include Johnnie Walker, Bell’s, J&B and Buchanan’s – wholly owns and operates 28 malt and one grain distillery, while the company also has a 50% stake in a further grain distillery.
Its visitors centres are now attracting more than double the number of people they did eight years ago.