Johnnie Walker Princes Street: Edinburgh’s Newest Attraction

A multistory visitor center dedicated to Scotch whisky has opened in the city’s Georgian-era New Town.

The exterior of Johnnie Walker Princes Street. (All photos courtesy of Johnnie Walker)

Whisky lovers have a new address to check out on their next visit to the Scottish capital: Johnnie Walker Princes Street. Occupying a 1935-built former department store in the heart of historic Edinburgh, the just-opened attraction offers visitors an immersive journey through the 200-year heritage of the world’s best-selling blended whisky brand, not to mention the chance to sample an exclusive dram or two.

The eight-floor venue — four and a half years in the making — features rooftop bars, private dining areas, and innovative exhibition spaces alongside personalized tasting experiences. Of the five tours on offer, the main option is the 90-minute Johnnie Walker Journey of Flavour (£25 per ticket, or about US$35), which begins with visitors determining their individual taste preferences (such as “spicy,” “fruity,” or “creamy”) via a digital flavor wheel, and crescendos with three DIY whisky cocktails based on those preferences. In between, live presentations, artifacts, and multimedia displays recount the history of Johnnie Walker from its origins in the southwest Scottish burgh of Kilmarnock in 1820 to its current stewardship under London-based drinks giant Diageo.

Elsewhere, there’s an experiential retail space where shoppers can select from rare and exclusive whiskies, fill their own bottles, and have them personalized. The onsite cellar is said to contain some of the world’s most unique whisky casks, which are maturing and waiting to be sampled by guests.

One of the exhibition spaces at Johnnie Walker Princes Street.

Visitors trying out the digital flavor wheel.

The building’s rooftop is a destination in its own right, with two bars and a terrace offering some of the finest views in town, even on a drab day. Overlooking Edinburgh Castle, cocktail bar 1820 pairs drinks with a menu of Scottish dishes (Highlands beef cheek with heather honey–roasted root vegetables; wild Islay sea bass fillet) inspired by the country’s various whisky regions. The Explorers’ Bothy bar, meanwhile, is stocked with 150 different whiskies, providing a curated exploration of Scotland’s “liquid landscape.” In keeping with the attraction’s sustainability ethos, roof planters provide herbs for garnishes and infusions for drinks, while bird boxes encourage biodiversity.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street is the centerpiece of Diageo’s £185 million (US$260 million) investment in local Scotch whisky tourism, a program that has seen upgrades to visitor centers at the company’s network of distilleries across Scotland. The initiative also includes the ongoing revival of defunct single-malt distilleries Port Ellen and Brora, a development that comes as welcome news for whisky connoisseurs and the local communities alike.

Bar-side seating at Explorers’ Bothy.

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