Whisky tourism in good spirits

Record distillery visits during 2017 reported by Diageo and Tomatin

Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry benefited from a 23% rise in visitors

WHISKY tourism seems to be in good spirits after the world’s biggest distiller announced record numbers of distillery visits in 2017.

Tourists are said to have explored Diageo’s 12 distillery visitor centres across Scotland in their droves; in total, 440,260 visits took place throughout 2017 – an increase of 15.2% on the previous year, and the highest figure reported to date by the company.

Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry – the ‘home’ of the Bell’s Scotch whisky brand – was said to be Diageo’s busiest distillery visitor centre, drawing in 86,019 people in 2017.

Representing a 23% increase in visits from the previous year, the rise was attributed to the launch of the site’s mash tun whisky tasting bar, which opened in July 2017.

Other success stories included Clynelish Distillery, situated in Brora, which is said to have experienced the biggest year-on-year increase in figures – leaping from 3771 in 2016 to 8544, representing a 137% rise.

Over the past five years, the attractions are said to have recorded a 96.3% growth in visitor numbers, which Diageo said has been fuelled by international visitors and ‘staycations’.

Ewan Andrew of Diageo described Scotch as “one of the biggest magnets for tourism and we’re continuing to grow visitor numbers from around the world”.

Diageo wasn’t the only distiller to report record visitor numbers in the past year.

Independent whisky distillery Tomatin also welcomed record numbers in 2017, with visitor numbers topping 49,000 for the first time; the distillery, which is 16 miles south of Inverness, is said to have seen a 140% rise in visitor numbers over the past five years.