Diageo’s newest tourism push is bringing its brands’ visitor centers global.
As part of a £185 million ($216 million) investment in whisky tourism, the mega spirits corporation is opening its Islay whisky distillery to the public, according to a press release. Visitor-friendly renovations at Caol Ila Distillery were recently completed, including “immersive storytelling rooms,” a bar experience with floor-to-ceiling windows, and dedicated retail space.
As the largest distillery on Islay, Caol Ila is best recognized for its production of a key component in Johnnie Walker blends. The renovations took nearly four years to complete, marking Diageo’s latest in a series of tourism ventures. Similar Johnnie Walker landmark distilleries — such as Glenkinchie, Cardhu, and Clynelish — have recently opened to whisky lovers.
“Caol Ila is the last of our reimagined brand homes to be unveiled, and it’s truly something special. Islay is known around the world for its whisky and we’ve ensured that our visitor experience not only tells the story of the Caol Ila brand, but also the major role whisky plays in the island’s history,” Barbara Smith, Diageo’s Scotland Brand Homes managing director, states in the release. “The new building will offer something new and unique to visitors and also to locals who will be able to come for social occasions or just to simply enjoy the stunning views.”
This latest move sits on the success of Diageo’s previous visitor opportunities. While its Guinness brewery in Dublin is still the top visitor attraction in Ireland, several newer sites in Europe and the United States also draw tourists from across the world. Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House opened its doors in Maryland in 2018. It marked the first Guinness beer to be brewed in the United States since 1954 — although the brand’s classic stout isn’t brewed at the location. Across the pond, a Johnnie Walker whisky experience opened in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2021, complete with an eight-story “Journey of Flavour” tour. The Guinness at Old Brewer’s Yard will open in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood in fall 2023, an almost-$100 million endeavor for Diageo.
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