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Raise a glass! Scotch whisky distilleries attract more visitors than ever

An incredible 1.7 million of us headed to Scotch whisky distilleries in 2017 – were you one of the growing numbers of whisky tourists?

Checking out a Scotch whisky distillery in the flesh is the dream of many – and more of us than ever are making a journey to Speyside, Islay, the Highlands and/or beyond. Over 1.7 million people checked into a Scotch distillery in 2016 – that’s an impressive 8% year-on-year increase.

Even more excitingly, over half of the 123 distilleries across Scotland now welcome members of the public – a thrilling figure if, like us, stillhouses and maturation warehouses rank as highly as far-flung beaches when it comes to dream holiday destinations.

And many agree – the largest proportion of visitors came from Germany, Scotland and other parts of the UK, closely followed by tourists from Sweden and Norway.

Not only are we all heading to Scotland’s distilleries in our droves – we’re spending more when we’re there, too. Each visitor dropped an average of £31 on tours, tastings, bottle sales and the like – up 13% on 2015’s figure – with total spends hitting close to £53 million over the year.

“It’s not surprising that more and more tourists are visiting Scotland’s distilleries to see how Scotch is made and to meet the people involved,” said Karen Betts, pictured, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which compiled the stats.

“Each distillery is distinctly of its place. Their histories, stories and modern-day craftsmanship fascinate locals and overseas visitors alike,” she added.

Scotch whisky distilleries have now become so popular that they collectively rival the likes of The Royal Albert Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Scottish National Gallery when it comes to visitor numbers.

Scotch whisky distilleriesThe SWA’s Karen Betts

And it’s all good news for Scotch whisky itself. The SWA says many distilleries plan to invest in shops and tasting areas to boost the visitor experience, thanks to the visitor influx. The money spent is sure to have a positive impact on the wider distillery production, too.

“It’s wonderful to see that Scotch whisky distilleries enjoyed a record number of visits in 2016,” said VisitScotland’s chief executive, Malcolm Roughead.

“Whisky is one of Scotland’s most valuable commodities with people from all over the world coming to our shores to experience an authentic Scottish dram.”

Did you visit a Scotch whisky distillery last year? Why did you decide to go, and what was your favourite experience? From intimate warehouse tastings to incredible distillery views, let us know your top visit tips in the comments below.

Categories : Scotch Whisky

3 comments on “Raise a glass! Scotch whisky distilleries attract more visitors than ever”

  1. Guido Denys says:

    Recently we made two trips to Scotland , mainly for whisky.
    First trip was to Islay, visiting Laphroaig, Lagavullin and Bunnahabhain. Unfortunately other distilleries were closed during weekend, something quite disappointing. Bunnahabhain was tops.
    Thereafter we went to Campbeltown , visiting Sprinbank and Glengyle. What an experience!
    Next trip included visits to Glengoyne, Edradour, Ancnoc , Glendronach and Balblair with a few extra days enjoying the highlands .
    I do find some distilleries less interesting because they are fully automated and /or to much focused on (buss) tourism. Smaller does not mean better, as Edradour is showing. Far too busy to enjoy.
    Rather go for distilleries less known, only open on appointment , or in area’s less visited. (Ancnoc is a perfect example).
    More focus should also be given to the making and preparing of casks or barrels. Hardly anywhere can you explore this process.
    As a conclusion and comment: let the whisky tourism not become a purpose in itself. It is all about the whisky and quality. Big glamorous showrooms and overcrowded visits take away the charm and feel of uniqueness.
    But we will definitely go back, (in winter ) to avoid big crowds and have a more “personal” experience like we had at Springbank and Bunnahabhain.
    Kind regards
    South Africa

  2. R E Cooper says:

    Hi Guido,
    In respect of Scottish Cooperage, there is rather more emphasis on repairing, and rejuvenating casks, rather then ‘new builds’ due to the benefits of using casks that previously held Sherry from famous Bodegas in Spain, quality Bourbon from the USA, or casks that previosly held Wines of distinction.
    If you are visiting Speyside, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Speyside Cooperage, where all elements of the Cooper’s craft are to be seen, with the added benefit of a well laid out visitor centre – one if the best such centres in the area, and right in the heart of of the world famous distilling region – what more could you ask for?

  3. William says:

    There can be few greater pleasures in life than a visit on a sunny day to Glen Grant distillery in Rothes. The distillery is a wonderful collection of buildings. One can sit outside the visitor centre in refashioned casks and take in the smells from the mashing and fermenting and listen to the babbling Capperdonich burn. The staff are always friendly – and the whisky is simply one of the best. And finally, once you have completed a trip around the buildings you can conduct a self guided tour of the beautifully maintained gardens which takes you through a cavernous ravine. The whole experience is a delight.

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