As someone who has banged the gong for whisky tourism and urged distilleries to open visitor centres, I’m delighted to see that everyone from the Scotch Whisky Association to VisitScotland is singing from that same hymn sheet.
A few weeks ago, the Scotch Whisky Association were trumpeting how whisky tourism is on the up and up in Scotland. Many people will be delighted to hear it and I just hope it will inspire more distilleries to open their doors to the public.
Once in a blue moon, whisky history buffs like me stumble unexpectedly upon an unknown goldmine. That happened a few weeks back on a quiet, cobbled street in Belfast when I passed a whisky shop called, whimsically, The Friend at Hand. I went in – and it was an hour before I emerged.
I suspect that to the purists, English whisky sounds a bit of a historic oxymoron. Yet in the late 19th Century, England boasted four official whisky distilleries and there would have been many more illicit ones in barns and garrets.
Aberdeenshire, and the North-East generally, have lost many distilleries over the decades, but those which have survived are currently thriving. These include Fettercairn, Royal Lochnagar, Glengarioch, Macduff/Glen Deveron, Ardmore, Glendronach, Glenglassaugh and the quaintly-named An Cnoc.
As someone who has banged on for years about the great potential of whisky tourism, I must applaud Diageo’s recently-unveiled £150 million plans to boost the cratur to our visitors.
It seems the great distillery renaissance that is sweeping Scotland and England is also sweeping across the whole of Ireland. That is good news, as Ireland saw its whiskey industry decimated nearly a century ago by a string of cruel circumstances.
Anyone keen to try a dram from all the new distilleries springing up in Scotland would need plenty of stamina, a robust liver and a good chauffeur, as the distilleries are both plentiful and well scattered.
New whisky distilleries are not just a Scottish phenomenon, they are springing up in England, too, even in London. So far there are six south of the Border, and all are keen to make their mark.
A record number of visitors attended Diageo’s whisky distilleries last year underlying the importance of Scotland’s national drink to the country’s tourism sector.