Whisky Advocate

Guest Blog #9:What would visitors to a new whisky centre like to see and do?

September 9th, 2010

Nick White, Managing Director of A.Dewar Rattray Ltd, Independent Bottler, is today’s guest blogger on “What Do You Know?”. Nick questions ” What would visitors to a new whisky centre like to see and do?”


We are opening a new head office, shop and whisky centre in Kirkoswald, South Ayrshire.  This is a development that the company owner, Stanley Walker Morrison (former part owner of Morrison Bowmore Distillers), has always wanted to do.  Now in association with A.Dewar Rattray Ltd we are developing a unique whisky centre with :

• a small warehouse room where you can fill your own bottle straight from an actual maturing cask
• an extensive sample room where you can nose and taste a plethora of samples from single casks
• a formal tasting room with whisky artifacts, collectibles on display, cooperage tools and other whisky related memorabilia

My problem is there is nothing like this currently in existence.  Apart for the Whisky Experience  on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh the only whisky centres are part of distilleries.  In addition, there is nothing like this at all on the mainland West of Scotland.  Arran is the nearest distillery that you can visit.  Grants/Ailsa Bay is very near us but they are not open to the public.
I would be fascinated to know what would attract enthusiasts to visit us.  Any new ideas on what is missing from distillery tours?
Please note that the Whisky Centre does not open until April 2011.  Renovation work has just started.

12 Responses to “Guest Blog #9:What would visitors to a new whisky centre like to see and do?”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    It sounds really nice. It would be nice if you had a few different barrels to choose from, including a barrel of grain spirit.. and allow folks to blend their own bottle. Also fun would be to offer 1 to 3 gallon barrels to fill yourself, so one can take home a barrel to continue to age the product (maybe even offering new make spirit.)

  2. Lavinia Turnbull says:

    A nice cafe selling local produce….a play area for the kids. Make it a family experience….many distilleries do allow children to visit but lets be honest…they get bored. I see many farm shops here in Fife that are doing good trade because they have created an environment where the parents can sit down and have a bite to eat…whilst they know they can relax because the kids are entertained…and if Mum and Dad are relaxed….the purse strings are more likely to be too. On a whisky enthusiast front…I find the ideas you mentioned above very good.

    • John Hansell says:

      Really good advice!

    • Chris says:

      Making it family friendly is a GREAT idea. I have two younger children and this would definitely encourage me to visit over other less kid friendly places. It doesn’t have to be Disneyland by any stretch of the imagination but at least an area where the kids can enjoy themselves too.

    • Jason Pyle says:

      Absolutely awesome idea. I live in Franklin, TN. There’s a nice vineyard and winery here. Yes that’s not a typo – right here in TN. Anyways they have a huge lawn where kids can run around and plan and some cool activities, fun music every weekend, and it gives adults the opportunity to bring the kids and turn em loose without the fear of them being bulls in a china shop. Then you can get down to the serious business (as an adult) of tasting, learning, and buying.

      Great idea.

  3. Sven says:

    John, your ideas are all unusual and I suggest you pursue them. But they appeal to hard-core fans. Having visited several distilleries in CO, KY and TN, one real problem is some of the tours don’t actually visit the actual working areas. A tour must include an actual tour!

    Also, some do not offer samples. Yeah, you have to watch the portions, but I like the places that offer samples of the unsual, new or expensive products since they are the ones I am least likely to have already tried.

    Most people have not had barrel-proof whiskey, so letting them have a chance to do so would be unique. The two tours I most enjoyed and remembered where the ones where we could taste sour mash (yuck!) and barrel-proof (harsh!). Let people do what they cannot do at home: explore and experience.

    Lavinia’s idea above is provocative. Perhaps a place to safely “park” the kids, like how the casinos have arcades so the adults can enjoy themselves without feeling guilty.

  4. lucky says:

    I like your ideas. However, here in the US much of what you describe is illegal. Laws describing wholesale and retail would prevent buying and filling a bottle from a cask. Serving any more that small samples would require a different sort of licensing than a manufacturer has or is able to acquire. Serving alcohol with food is another licensing question with different laws in virtually every county and local city. I hope you can get it done as it would serve as an example of what the industry needs more of.

  5. David says:

    Sounds like a great idea to me. I was just in Edinburgh and thought the whisky experience on the Royal Mile was a waste of time for the whisky enthusiast but a nice entry level activity for those having never experienced whisky or those new to the drink. Your experience sounds great for those enthusiast and those looking to try different and limited (rarer) whiskies. To bottle something your self straight from the cask sounds pretty cool to the whisky nerd. My advice would be to have a variety of casks on offer at different price points, making it accessible to all types of budgets, and different palates as well.

    I also visited the Glengoyne distillery as part of a day trip to a castle and loch, I enjoyed it but was disappointed that they didn’t take the tour to see the cask warehouse. If you can provide access to see where the casks are resting that would add to the value as well. Would it be possible to have a tasting room as well where people can enjoy a dram or two and perhaps order some snacks, making it nice place to enjoy a dram would add to the experience.

    • Jason JY says:

      I’d like to echo what David says here, please make it something for the enthusiast. Or at least give the enthusiast something interesting, while still catering to those with little experience of whisky, that will lead to them returning. The bottling from a cask is a great idea, choice in that department would be excellent, and the ability to taste on site is a must. I could see you discussing production techniques that focuses on particular grains, wood influence, and maturation time frames.

      A cafe selling local produce is a great idea but I’m not sure you want to compete with Souter Johnnie’s Inn from the outset. Where are you going to be in Kirkoswald?

      I’m excited to see something like this being established so close to my parents’ home and you can expect to see me soon after opening — crossing fingers you open on time!

      Very best of luck, Nick,
      Jason of Guid Scotch Drink

  6. Tadas says:

    I have visited few whiskey visitor centers at the distilleries. One thing I found really odd that price of whiskey sold on premise is higher than the price I could get from a liquor or grocery store. Sometimes significantly higher :/ If I buy a product directly from the manufacturer, shouldn’t it be cheaper than buying from a middlemen?

    • Sven says:

      Tadas, liquor laws are weird, from county to county within a state. Many distilleries don’t even sell the bottled product, or like the ones in TN, can only sell “commemorative bottles”, even if they are just regular bottles with special labels or box. That kind of handling can quickly add to the retail cost of any product. All this is to say, I agree with your point, but I suspect the answer lies in the volume being sold from the gift shop and compliance with arbitrary laws like those in TN.

    • I think the main reason that products at distilleries in general ar not cheaper is that a distillery (the producer) doesnt want to compete with its customers (whisky sellers = shops and stores)

      They usually choose to go another way, and that’s to bottle and sell something not available outside the distillery

      I actually don’t think people visits distilleries to save a couple of quids on a bottle they could have bought at the supermarket just next door to where they live.

      But getting a bottle you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get is a lot more exciting

      A lot of distillery gives you an discount of the tour fee if you purchase bottles, so the price can be cheap if use this option


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