Plans to create a global flagship visitor experience for Johnnie Walker, the world’s most popular global whisky brand, have taken a major stride forward with official approval from local authorities in Edinburgh.
The City of Edinburgh Council Planning Committee formally granted permission for the project, which will transform the former House of Fraser flagship store into a major new tourist destination.
The Johnnie Walker visitor experience is the focal point of a £150million investment in Scotch whisky tourism by leading global spirits company Diageo, the biggest single investment programme ever seen in the whisky tourism sector.
The Planning Committee yesterday approved the application for the venue, which is expected to create between 160 to 180 new full-time equivalent jobs and to generate in the region of £135 million in tourism spend in the wider Edinburgh economy.
The proposals would see the meticulous restoration of the building at 146 Princes Street with many of its beautiful heritage features preserved where possible and integrated into the visitor experience. This will include restoring the famous clock on the corner of Princes Street and Hope Street – known locally as the Binns corner after the former department store – which was an Edinburgh institution and traditional meeting point for city residents.
The plans include:
- A multi-sensory, immersive visitor experience across three floors, guiding people through the 200 year history of the brand, the art and science of whisky-making, and taking them on a journey through the flavours of Scotland.
- A flexible events space for staging music, theatre, arts and community events, making the venue part of the thriving cultural life of the city.
- A training academy that will be a home for Diageo’s award-winning Learning for Life programme, which creates training and employment opportunities in the hospitality industry for unemployed people, and works to improve hospitality standards and promotes the responsible serving and consumption of alcohol.
- Roof-top access with stunning views of Edinburgh Castle and across the city skyline to east, west and north.
- At street level the plans include a significant retail space, bringing a contemporary shopping experience and interior design inspired by the Johnnie Walker retail flagship store in Madrid, which opened in November.
An application for a premises licence for the sale of alcohol will be considered by The City of Edinburgh Licensing Board in due course. Construction work is expected to begin in the early summer.
David Cutter, Chairman of Diageo in Scotland, said: “This is another significant step forward in our journey to create an inspiring flagship destination for Johnnie Walker.
“We have had great support for our proposals from local stakeholders and businesses in Edinburgh and we are grateful to everyone who has helped us to get to this stage. We will continue to work with the local community as we now progress with construction and with making our plans a reality.”
Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo Global Scotch Whisky Director, said: “We are incredibly excited by our plans for the Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh where people can explore, discover, and immerse themselves in story of the world’s leading whisky brand.
“We have ambitious plans to make this a truly world-leading attraction, drawing people from the four corners of the globe to Scotland and to give them an unforgettable experience in Scotch whisky and Scottish culture.”
Diageo is currently investing over £185 million in Scotch whisky experiences in Scotland. As well as the Edinburgh location, the company is also investing to transform its existing 12 distillery visitor attractions across Scotland and a £35 million investment to reopen the iconic 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 in Edinburgh, representing the ‘four corners of Scotland’ and the regional flavour variations crucial to the art of whisky blending. Together these sites will create a unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland, encouraging visitors to the capital city to also travel to the country’s extraordinary rural communities.