A MULTI-MILLION-POUND visitor centre celebrating the history of Lowland whisky opened at Glenkinchie Distillery today (Thursday).

The tour not only allows people to learn about the process of making whisky but also allows visitors to experience the smells and tastes associated with Scotland’s national drink.

More than two years of hard work have gone into transforming the distillery, south of Pencaitland, and Glenkinchie residents were given a chance to see the changes first-hand last week.

Now, the distillery is getting ready to welcome visitors from further afield.

Barbara Smith, managing director of brand homes for Diageo in Scotland, officially declared the new visitor experience open with the ceremonial planting of a tree to complete the garden and to represent the future growth of Scotch whisky and tourism.

She said: “The opening of the wonderful new visitor experience and garden at Glenkinchie is the first step in our long-term £185million investment in whisky tourism in Scotland.

“We are acutely aware of the difficult times many people are going through, particularly our colleagues in the tourism and hospitality sector across Scotland.

“We know there’s a long way to go and a lot of uncertainty ahead.

“Still, we believe in the resilience of our business and our communities, and we will be doing all we can through our investment to sow the seeds of recovery and future growth.”

The single malt distillery is the first of four ‘corner’ distilleries around Scotland – taking in Clynelish, Cardhu and Caol Ila, as well as Glenkinchie – that will form a network of visitor experiences linked to the new global centrepiece, Johnnie Walker Princes Street, in Edinburgh, which is due to open next summer.

The £185 million investment in Scotch whisky experiences comes from Diageo, which owns Glenkinchie, where it employs about 35 people.

Centred in a newly-landscaped garden, visitors can step inside the distillery’s traditional Victorian red brick warehouses.

Outside is a new statue of Johnnie Walker’s Striding Man icon, created by Edinburgh-based artist Angela Johnston.

Trotting alongside is one of Glenkinchie’s best-loved residents.

Distilleries usually employ cats to rule over the yard, but it was Bruce, a Scottish deerhound, who was the distillery ‘mascot’ and champion pest catcher.

Once inside, the tour makes its way through the refurbished warehouses and covers the traditional aspects of a tour, such as the history of both Glenkinchie and Johnnie Walker.

However, it also allows people to experience the smells associated with whisky and people will be able to say what flavours they can taste in the Glenkinchie products.

Created by BRC Imagination Arts, the Glenkinchie brand home is described as “a full sensory experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the history, craft and flavour of whisky”.

Highlighting the single malt’s light floral profile, the new-look brand home features a garden area with an orchard and specially selected plants native to East Lothian and planted to create year-round seasonal variations.

Ramsay Borthwick, Glenkinchie Distillery manager, said: “Glenkinchie will give people a thrilling first taste of the new visitor experiences we are creating across Scotland.

“We will be offering people an experience like no other distillery in Scotland at Glenkinchie.”