Scotland Whisky Distilleries Keep Drawing People In

Times are a little confusing right now for the Scotch whisky industry, namely because of the whole Brexit situation and its potential impact on Scotch sales abroad. But the industry has some good news to share with the world: visitors continue to flock to Scottish distilleries in record numbers.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) recently released the results of a survey of distillery visitor centers. The survey reveals that a record 1.6 million people visited Scottish distilleries in 2015, an increase of 7% since the previous year, and a total increase of more than 20% since 2010.

Whisky aging at a Scottish distillery (image via Scotch Whisky Association

Whisky aging at a Scottish distillery (image via Scotch Whisky Association

Distilleries, noted the SWA, reported that the largest proportion of visitors came from Scotland and other parts of the U.K., Germany, the U.S, and France, reflecting some of the largest markets for Scotch around the world. Furthermore, those visiting spent on average around £25 (about $35 USD) per head during a visit, resulting in total spending in 2015 of £50 million, up from £27m in 2010.

“Scotch Whisky distilleries offer high-quality and unique opportunities to visit the homes of some of Scotland’s most famous brands,” said Julie Hesketh-Laird, SWA deputy chief executive, in a prepared statement. “It is testament to Scotch Whisky companies that visits have increased at a time when overall Scottish visitor numbers fell. This brings important benefits to the wider rural economy, as distillery visitors will also then be staying at the local B&B, visiting a local pub or café, or buying souvenirs of their stay in Scotland.”

Interestingly, only about half of Scotland’s 118 whisky distilleries are open to the public. Of those that are, significant investments in new and upgraded visitor centers and tourism facilities, as well as the success of whisky festivals such as Islay and Speyside, are attributed as being reasons for attracting new visitors to Scotland.