Distilleries draw record visitors

SCOTCH whisky distilleries are attracting record numbers of visitors, with more than 1.5 million people heading to visitor centres last year.

A new survey by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), carried out during Whisky Month in May, revealed visitor numbers rose by around 6% on 2013’s figure; this was an increase of more than 15% on the 2010 total of just under 1.3m.

The SWA claims distilleries collectively are now among some of the best-known UK attractions.

Visitors spent almost £50 million at whisky distillery attractions last year.
Visitors spent almost £50 million at whisky distillery attractions last year.

The largest proportion of visitors came from Scotland and other parts of the UK, as well as Germany, the USA and France.

Almost £50 million was spent last year on distillery tours, shops and cafes, up from £27m in 2010. The average spend per visitor was around £32.50.

Mickey Heads, distillery manager at Ardbeg on Islay, which this year celebrates its 200th anniversary, said: “Distilleries like Ardbeg have become a place of pilgrimage for the single malt whisky faithful and these findings echo the growth in visitor figures we have experienced.

“We pride ourselves on being one of the island’s fastest growing distilleries.”

Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association deputy chief executive, said the SWA’s findings reflect figures from the Office of National Statistics  (see story below) showing tourism visits to Scotland increased by 5% between 2013 and last year.

“During Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, and particularly during the Whisky Month of May, our survey shows just how many people want to visit distilleries to see how Scotch whisky is made, try a dram and buy a bottle to take home to family and friends,” said Hesketh-Laird.

“Every year, distilleries are attracting more visitors from the UK and all parts of the globe.

“Scotch whisky producers are investing in their centres and shops to give visitors the best possible experience.”