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September 6, 2021

Four and a half years in the making, Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Princes Street is an eight-floor new visitor experience. It is the centrepiece of Diageo’s £185million pound investment in Scotch whisky tourism in Scotland – the largest single investment program of its kind.

Formerly Binns and then Frasers department stores, it is a remarkable project in several ways. Not least in terms of its scale. Set over 71,500 sq ft, there is an awful lot of it.

While large, it places a lot of emphasis on personalising the experience for visitors. For example, guests can try drinks which have been mapped to their own flavour preferences.

Apparently, there are more than 800 flavour combinations available in the drink dispensation systems. This means one person could visit Johnnie Walker Princes Street every day for more than two years and not have the same experience twice. Guests can also fill their own bottles from the casks maturing in the cellars and have them personalised.

Rooftop Bars at Johnnie Walker Princes Street

Johnnie Walker Princes Street by night.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street by night.

Perhaps most pertinent to the 5pm blog are the two rooftop bars. The Explorers' Bothy whisky bar has 150 different whiskies on the shelves while the 1820 Cocktail Bar offers seasonal cocktails alongside a wide range of spirits - not just whisky, wines and beers.

The food menu in the 1820 bar takes its cues from they call the 'four corners' distilleries that make up Johnnie Walker: Glenkinchie, Caol Ila, Cardhu and Clynelish. Interestingly, all the dishes are presented as plant-led with the option to add locally sourced meat, game or seafood component for a supplement.

For example, under the Caol Ila coastal heading, guests could choose butternut and citrus tagliatelle with crispy kale and soft herb dressing for £8.50. The addition of crab meat would raise the price to £17.50. Under the Glenkinchie floral honey heading, options include a dish of heritage hasselback potatoes with red cabbage, whole grain mustard, apple and toasted cobnuts for £11.50. Opting to add Robertson of Ayr crispy pork would bring the bill to £18.

Landmark investment

Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive, Diageo said: 'This is a proud day for everyone. Last year Johnnie Walker celebrated 200 years since founder John Walker opened the doors to his small grocery store and today represents the next chapter of the incredible story. Johnnie Walker Princes Street is a landmark investment in Scotch whisky and into Scotland and it sets a new standard for immersive visitor attractions. It celebrates Scotland’s remarkable heritage, our incredible skilled whisky-makers, and looks to the future by engaging new generations of consumers from around the world in the magic of Scotch whisky.'

Johnnie Walker Princes Street is an important project for Diageo but it also has the potential to have a lot of impact in Edinburgh. The new St James Quarter has drawn a lot of attention to the eastern end of the city centre but Johnnie Walker Princes Street will focus a lot of eyeballs on the city's west end.

Space to chill at Johnnie Walker Princes Street.

Space to chill at Johnnie Walker Princes Street.