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Distillery visitor experience – Part II


After receiving so many messages from people reacting to my previous article concerning whisky tourism and more particularly the visitor experience within distilleries, I thought it could be interesting to compile the best thoughts here. I chose not to provide a comment section directly on my blog but always love discussing whisky-related topics on social networks and emails alike, so don’t feel shy if you wish to discuss anything further !

The question that was discussed here was : What would make a distillery stand out from the rest in terms of visitor experience ? Distilleries and other whisky-related attractions, here are a few thoughts from both novices and connoisseurs to help enhance your tourism offer :


“I like and prefer when you can bottle your own whisky and then have something special to take home with you.
If not possible then at least a distillery exclusive in the shop.” Mikael Ørnsholt-Christofferse

“I believe that a culinary twist to a distillery tour could bring in or at least add to the numbers going through the doors. Whisky being paired with food (Chocolate, cheeses, meats) has definitely seen a rise due to, in my opinion, novices who are more interested about the spirit’s social use and ability rather than the history of the whisky/distillery where the spirit was born.
Some possible examples: bringing friends/family over for dinner and having a selected whisky that would compliment the meal being made, similar to wine. Whisky tastings at pubs/events which pair regions with food to show the many varieties of whisky available and how our senses react when mixing whisky with food choices.
Whisky geeks like myself love hearing about the hardships and the time spent crafting the whisky, but I have been on many tours were, after the initial buzz of anticipation has petered out, people just want to try the dram. Being able to fully immerse yourself in the process helps you to really appreciate how much effort has gone in to making the spirit, but even if you have the malted barley in jars, pass out tastings of the wash, show off the kiln and see the spirit safe in action, some people are left wanting more.

[…] Getting the consumer to feel a part of the process or at least grabbing their attention is key for positive customer feedback and an enjoyable and memorable tour.” Darron Foy

“I think that distilleries need to keep re-inventing the tours/services on offer as well as maintaining the ethos and authenticity of the distillery. People want innovation, new ideas and products and it cannot be just a case of doing what you have always done. This isn’t easy but originality and been dynamic are true to increasing numbers and engagement. An age old process cant still be sold in a fresh way.” Nina Young FCA

“I think that structured tours as I did at Macallan is an added bonus. For those of us who have toured dozens of distilleries, it is nice to avoid some of the basic explanation and questions from novice tour groups off a bus. When I visited Macallan, they offered several tours at different price levels that tend to create a cadre of experienced whisky buffs at the higher price — and with more precious drams following the tour.” Mac Irvin

” My personal favorites are:
* Adapted: you don’t want to hear the basic process over and over again. If you know more about whisky than the average visitor, you also want a guide who can answer your tougher questions. Better yet, you want to talk to the distiller, the mashman, etc.

* Stories: they are the best way to emotionally engage the visitor. They make the distillery feel more familiar and unique afterwards. Everyone loves a good story!

* Senses: I spent a week at Strathearn distillery. What stuck with me the most going home was the smell, especially during mashing-in. It’s nice to see an empty mash tun, but being able to smell the warm mash, taste it, feel the consistency, feel the weight of the bag of malted barley etc. is 300% better. What about heads and feints, what do they smell and taste like? Very few people know. Smell is such a primal and powerful sense, it’s a shame it’s not being used to the full on such tours.” Carl Seleborg

“For me, as one who has attended a number of tours, my ultimate visit would include:
1.Private tasting with experienced staff – four different expressions, that I have not previously tasted, is an optimum number.
2. Or, at a minimum an end of a “what makes us unique” tour tasting of two different expressions
3. I like take-aways, such as a card with the whisky I sampled and the company line about the nose, palate, finish, color (this way I can write on the card my own opinion.)
A nice gift shop and good, simple food should be a given.” Linda L. Peterson