A key milestone has been reached in the journey to transform the Caol Ila Distillery visitor experience after Argyll and Bute Council formally granted planning permission for the development.
With the green light given from planners, work is now expected to begin on the expansion of the distillery visitor experience over the next few weeks.
The plans are part of a £150m investment in Scotch whisky tourism by leading distilling company Diageo, focused on the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker.
Under the investment plans, Caol Ila will become the Islay home of Johnnie Walker and will be thematically linked to a new global Johnnie Walker visitor attraction in Edinburgh.
Caol Ila has made single malt Scotch whisky for Johnnie Walker for over a century and today it continues to provide the key smoky, peaty flavour that is a signature characteristic of Johnnie Walker.
The plans will see a new state-of-the-art visitor experience created inside the beautiful shore-side Caol Ila warehouse, including a stunning bar that takes full advantage of the stunning views across the Sound of Islay.
A new foot-bridge will allow guests to enter the roof of the distillery warehouse, linking to new parking facilities on the hill above the distillery discreetly located and carefully landscaped to manage visual impact and traffic movement.
The plans were shared first with the distillery’s neighbours and local Islay stakeholders in October last year, with planning permission submitted to Argyll and Bute Council in early November.
Leigh Aitken, Caol Ila Distillery brand home manager, said: ‘This is very exciting news and we want to thank Argyll and Bute Council and all our neighbours for their support. Everyone involved is now very much looking forward to work getting underway.
‘This is a major investment project that will not only transform the Caol Ila visitor experience, but will add further to Islay’s reputation as the greatest whisky island in the world.’
Caol Ila is one of a number of Diageo distilleries that will see major work undertaken as part investment plans totalling more than £185 million across Scotland. This includes the £150 million investment in the new global visitor attraction for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh, as well as investment in 12 distillery brand homes, and the £35 million investment in the revival of the iconic lost distilleries of Port Ellen and Brora.
Whisky from Diageo’s distilleries all over Scotland contribute to Johnnie Walker, but four distilleries – Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish – will be linked directly to the Johnnie Walker venue in Edinburgh, representing the ‘four corners of Scotland’ and the regional flavour variations crucial to the art of whisky blending. Together these sites will create a unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland, encouraging visitors to the capital city to also travel to the country’s extraordinary rural communities.