A MULTI-MILLION-POUND bid to transform the visitor experience at East Lothian’s whisky distillery has been given the green light.

The proposals aim to “significantly expand and enhance the experience the distillery offers to tourists from around the world”.

Diageo’s plans centre on the renovation and conversion of the existing traditional red brick warehouse buildings.

The buildings will be transformed into “a stunning multi-levelled visitor experience”, which will include a welcome lounge, retail unit, bar and cocktail making classroom, as well as tasting rooms and a cask draw experience.

Ramsay Borthwick, Glenkinchie Distillery manager, was delighted to see the proposals given the thumbs-up.

He said: “We would like to thank East Lothian Council and all our neighbours for their support with this development.

“This is not only a major project for Glenkinchie Distillery, it will enhance the whole economy of East Lothian, attracting more visitors to the area.

“This is a very exciting time for Glenkinchie.

“Everyone involved is eager to get started with the work to transform the distillery and establish Glenkinchie as a must-visit tourist attraction in Scotland.”

Additionally, the famous Glenkinchie scale-model whisky distillery – originally built for the 1925 Empire Exhibition – will be reinvigorated with new digital and interactive storytelling elements.

A number of non-original buildings will be demolished to allow extensive landscaping to create a welcome garden in front of the visitor experience while a sculpture will also be created, as well as a riverside seating area alongside the Kinchie Burn.

The distillery, near Pencaitland, is one of four across Scotland being given a revamp by owners Diageo.

Caol Ila on Islay; Clynelish, near Brora; and Cardhu, near Elgin, will, together with Glenkinchie, be linked directly to the Johnnie Walker venue in Edinburgh.

The distilleries represent the ‘four corners of Scotland’ and the regional flavour variations crucial to the art of whisky blending.

Whiskies produced at Glenkinchie include its 12-year-old single malt and its special Distillers Edition.

Together, the four sites will create a unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland, encouraging visitors to the Capital to also travel to the country’s rural communities.

According to East Lothian Council’s planning department: “Glenkinchie has an existing visitor centre which was formed in 1968 and regularly attracts in the order of 46,000 visitors per annum.

“However, the existing visitor experience is limited, and the guest experience is beginning to lag with other experiences in the market.

“Currently, there is no real sense of place or arrival at Glenkinchie and some of the other challenges facing the existing visitor centre and distillery site are as follows: the current visitor tour route is convoluted and unclear; there is a lack of clear separation between public and private routes within the site; key views of the iconic warehouse and malt house buildings are obscured; and there is a poor sense of arrival for visitors, dominated by the former bowling green and pavilion building.

“In light of these challenges, supporting planning statement advises that Diageo has taken the decision to commit substantial investment in enhancing the Glenkinchie Distillery complex to significantly improve the visitor experience.”