Whisky Magazine Issue 47
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It's hard to believe that just a few years ago public access to a distillery was rare. Now many offer tours or tastings and they're becoming increasingly sophisticated. Dominic Roskrow reports
Later this year Whisky Magazine will publish its 50th issue and we'll be taking a look at how the industry has changed in that time.
Almost certainly among the scores of new and successful launches and the distillery sales, closures and takeovers, the rise and rise of the visitor centre will feature prominently. But there has been a subtler change too: distillery tours are becoming increasingly sophisticated, VIP versions have started to pop up, and specialised and more informative tastings have been introduced.
Whisky tourism is growing up, and distilleries are facing up to the challenge of trying to offer the experienced whisky enthusiast something to keep him and her interested while not putting the novice off.
“The bottom line is that a visitor coming to a distillery in Speyside or on Islay for the third or fourth time isn't interested in the basic version of the tour,” commented a tour guide at Glenfiddich, the distillery where it all started.
“But it is an art accommodating for them and keeping new visitors happy, too. And we offer tours in an array of languages and if you make tours more technical, then that opens up a whole new set of problems, too.”
Increasingly distillery tours are falling in to three general categories: the basic ‘how whisky is made' tour, the advanced version with special tastings and greater access to warehouses and so on, and the family tourist tour which tend to be as much about Scotland as whisky.
The general standards of tours...