Diageo wants to turn Edinburgh’s House of Fraser into a Johnnie Walker visitor centre

Diageo is in talks to transform one of Edinburgh’s high street landmarks into a tourist attraction dedicated to its scotch whisky label, Johnnie Walker.

The drinks giant said it has “begun negotiations” with Parabola, the Scottish property firm which owns 145 Princes Street, to develop the former department store as “a potential location for the global Johnnie Walker brand experience.

Diageo plans to invest £150 million in Scotch whisky tourism – the biggest sum ever allocated to the sector – to create a Johnnie Walker immersive visitor experience in Edinburgh.

“We will be engaging with the local authority to explore the planning potential for the redevelopment of the building,” a spokesperson told the drinks business.

“This is one of the city’s landmark buildings and we want to explore its regeneration in a way that respects its unique heritage and place in Edinburgh city centre. We cannot comment further while discussions are ongoing.”

The news comes as rival whiskey brands have also found success by developing their tourism offerings. Irish Distillers’ Jameson distillery was recently named the most popular whiskey-based tourist attraction in the world. More than 350,000 visitors crossed the still-house threshold, while on-site bartenders served more than 50,000 whiskey sours to tourists at the Bow street venue in less than a year.

The number of people visiting Scotch whisky distilleries increased by 7% to 1.6 million in 2015, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), despite overall visitor numbers of Scotland decreasing.

Spirits giant Edrington opened a new distillery and visitor experience for Scotch-producer The Macallan in June 2018. The new still-house cost £140m to build, forming part of Edrington’s much larger, £500m investment into the brand.

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