Scotland and Whiskey – a match made in heaven. But it’s not just the ‘water of life’ itself which has proven to be such a successful and integral aspect of the Scottish economy and our deep rooted history and tradition. In July 2011 a study commissioned by the Scotch Whiskey Association showed that tourism associated with Scotch whiskey is worth £30 million (GVA) to the industry each year. Not a bad situation in the current economic climate. The benefits are also felt beyond the distillery gates, helping boost and sustain local businesses and jobs. The question is, why is the tourism side such a big success? Why do tourists seek out the source of their favourite dram? And why since 1969 when the first visitor centre opended at Glenfiddich, have many distilleries invested so heavily in their centres, resulting in a significant and consistent rise in their number?
The answer to this may seem obvious but there are a number of unique components to the whiskey tourism experience that provide the visitor and the distillery with something far more enticing than other tourist attractions – full product immersion. Although this £30 million is relatively insignificant in relation to the near £3 billion GVA of the industry as a whole, it fulfils a critical and established role in the relationship between product and consumer.
At the basic level there are simplistically two types of people who are lured into the distillery visitor centre – the whiskey lover who desires to see how, for example, Ben Nevis single cask bottling or Glendronach 31 year old Grandeur is meticulously produced. Then there is the tourist keen to smell and taste this Scottish tradition. However, for all those who visit, and if the distillery’s approach is correct, they will leave with an everlasting association with the whisky, the brand and the concept.
Visiting a distillery and taking a tour allows all of your senses to be immersed in an authentic and true manner. You see the buildings at Springbank in which the staff are at work, distilling to perfection. You hear the machinery mixing and mashing at Bruichladdich. You can touch wooden wash backs that hold the fermenting spirit at Glenglassaugh. You can smell the angels’ share in the warehouses of Glenfarclas. And you taste a wee dram back in the tasting room at Kilchoman. You are taken on a journey through the inner workings of the heart of the business and immersed at each stage before your eyes – and your wallet – are once again indulged by a shelf full of the many variations of your now favourite drink. It’s an experience you literally want to buy into.
And this is an experience The Whisky Barrel is tapping into as well through our online whiskey shop. With the release of our very own bottling we offer to you a unique opportunity to purchase a whiskey that we ourselves have seen, touched, heard, smelt, tasted and captured. We offer to you the ultimate bottle of experience.
So, whilst Scotland may be ‘see-you-jimmy hats’, ‘Nessie’ and a ‘wee dram’ to many, the underlying truth is that the Scottish whiskey industry is one of the most prolific and successful in the UK bringing in up to £3bn in exports and has shown little sign of slowing down- indeed today it was revealed that exports increased 22 per cent during the first 6 months of this year expanding into new markets such as Brazil. It is a traditionally local enterprise developed in all corners of Scotland that has spanned the globe and encouraged the likes of Japan and Sweden to try their hand as well. So no wonder the distilleries sustain visitor centres – as much as you want to visit them, they are just as keen to welcome you in and offer you a dram of their finest Scotch whisky.