Diageo launches £185m Edinburgh whisky emporium on former site of Binns department store
Edinburgh has acquired a new landmark with the opening of the Johnnie Walker whisky emporium on the historic site once occupied by the Binns department store – a victim of the changing face of the High Street.
The £185million seven-storey restoration, incorporating the famous Binns clock, symbolises the faith of distiller Diageo in the future of premium Scotch as Britain carves out a series of free-trade agreements with the rest of the world in the post-Brexit era.
Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes views the new Johnnie Walker house as his firm’s window for the world with emerging markets and India in particular the ultimate prize.
Landmark: The Johnnie Walker site was once occupied by the Binns department store
‘We’re making the appropriate investments in Scotch to sustain the growth in the business as the tariffs go down,’ Menezes says.
Scotch, much of it distilled by Diageo, is one of the UK’s biggest food and drink exports accounting for 20 per cent of overseas sales at present. It is the biggest earner for Diageo making up some 23 per cent of the enterprise’s earnings.
Menezes is relatively untroubled by the distribution and supply problems for business which recently have dominated the domestic media.
‘It’s been a little bit more challenging especially for obtaining packaging materials. We are going to be a little more edgy as we go into the holiday season,’ he says.
Before the pandemic Scotland attracted up to 2m tourists a year and Diageo’s 23 distilleries across the country were part of that experience.
Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes (pictured) views the new Johnnie Walker house as his firm’s window for the world with emerging markets and India in particular the ultimate prize
Menezes says wants the Edinburgh venue ‘to be a force for attracting visitors from Europe, Asia and Latin America.’
Of all the trade agreements being signed by Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, Menezes regards a potential trade deal with India as the most significant.
He believes there is enormous demand in the country for premium and aspirational whisky brands which are at present disadvantaged by tariff barriers.
Boris Johnson had hoped to put some heft behind a trade deal with India in the early summer but his planned summit was cancelled amid the terrible spike in Covid in the country.
The hope had been to open the Edinburgh emporium in 2000 to mark the 200th anniversary of the brand but it was delayed by the pandemic.
As well as documenting the heritage of Scotch, the visitor centre will also be offering hospitality training for Scotland’s unemployed.