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Diageo seeks approval for Cardhu and Clynelish upgrades

Johnnie Walker maker Diageo has lodged planning applications to “transform” the visitor experiences at Cardhu and Clynelish as part of its £150 million (US$195m) investment in Scotch whisky tourism.

Cardhu will become the “Speyside home” of Johnnie Walker

The UK drinks group announced its £150m investment plans last April. Phased over three years, the funds will be used to build a new visitor attraction for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh, and upgrade Diageo’s 12 distillery visitor centres in Scotland.

Four distilleries – Cardhu, Clynelish, Glenkinchie and Caol Ila – will be “linked directly” to the Johnnie Walker venue in Edinburgh.

In November, Diageo submitted its plans for Caol Ila. In February this year, the group filed a planning application to transform 146 Princes Street in Edinburgh into a seven-storey visitor centre for Johnnie Walker.

Now, Diageo has submitted plans for Cardhu and Clynelish to the distilleries’ local authorities: Moray Council and Highland Council.

Under the plans, Cardhu will become the “Speyside home” of Johnnie Walker and Clynelish will become the “Highland home” of the brand. Both will be “thematically linked” to the Johnnie Walker attraction.

According to Diageo, Cardhu and Clynelish are two of the “most important” single malts used in the Johnnie Walker blend. Cardhu was the first distillery to be acquired by John Walker & Sons in 1893, while Clynelish has a “long association” with the brand.

Cardhu’s revamped visitor centre will highlight the story of Helen and Elizabeth Cumming, the women who established and ran the distillery in the 19th century. Meanwhile, plans for new external landscaping around the distillery will enhance access and create a new orchard space for visitors.

“This is an important step in our plans for the distillery. We have already shared our initial plans with the local community and now we look forward to working with local stakeholders as we progress the planning process,” said Laura Sharp, Cardhu Distillery brand home manager.

“Speyside is a hugely important part of the Scotch whisky tourism map and we are very excited by the plans for Cardhu, which we believe will bring new visitors to the distillery and to the region.”

Artist’s impression of the new-look Clynelish Distillery

Clynelish plans

Plans for Clynelish, first outlined in March this year, include the construction of a new upper floor, as well as a new bar and tasting area offering panoramic views of the Sutherland coast.

“This is another significant milestone on our journey to transform the visitor experience at Clynelish,” said Jacqueline James-Bow, Clynelish Distillery brand home manager.

“We have seen great growth in tourism over recent years with the NC500 [road trip] bringing new visitors to the Highlands. We believe the investment we are making at the distillery will create a major new attraction and help bring more tourists to this part of the world in the future.”

Subject to planning approval, work on the distilleries is scheduled to commence later this year, with completion expected in late 2020.

In addition to the £150m investment in its Scotch whisky ‘brand homes’, Diageo will spend £35m (US$46m) reviving its Port Ellen and Brora distilleries.

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