Caol Ila given green light for visitor centre upgrade

25th April, 2019 by Melita Kiely

Diageo has been granted planning permission to renovate the Caol Ila Distillery visitor experience as part of its £150 million (US$215m) investment in Scotch whisky tourism.


An artist’s impression of the planned Caol Ila visitor centre

Argyll and Bute Council has approved plans for the development, which will transform Caol Ila into the Islay home of Diageo’s blended Scotch brand, Johnnie Walker. Work is expected to begin in the next few weeks.

The upgrade will include a new “state-of-the-art” visitor centre inside the Caol Ila warehouse, complete with a bar looking out across the Sound of Islay.

Vistiors will be able to enter through the roof of the distillery warehouse by crossing a new footbridge that will be connected to a new car park hidden on the hill above the distillery.

Caol Ila is one of four Diageo-owned Scotch whisky distilleries chosen to represent the ‘four corners of Scotland’ as part of the parent company’s tourism investment plans. The other three distilleries are Glenkinchie in the Lowlands, Cardhu in Speyside and Clynelish in the Highlands.

Leigh Aitken, Caol Ila Distillery brand home manager, said: “This is a major investment project that will not only transform the Caol Ila visitor experience, but will add further to Islay’s reputation as the greatest whisky island in the world.”

Diageo unveiled its £150m Scotch whisky tourism investment plans in April last year, which also includes a new “state-of-the-art” Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh building will be come a new ‘hub’ for Diageo’s business in Scotland and will allow the firm to “mentor Scotland’s next generation of entrepreneurs and exporters”.

It is said to be the biggest single investment in Scotch whisky tourism’s history. The funding will be phased over three years.

In August last year, it was reported that Scotch whisky tourism reached a record high in 2017 as 1.9m people flocked to distilleries across Scotland.

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