Disappointment as Johnnie Walker whisky experience opens in Edinburgh 12 years after Diageo pulled out of Kilmarnock
It’s been more than 12 years since Diageo pulled out of Kilmarnock — ripping 700 jobs from the town and beyond in the process.
More than 200 years on from Johnnie Walker’s genesis in Kilmarnock, the milestone has been marked with a multi-million pound visitor experience opening this month — in Edinburgh.
The plush Princes Street attraction has eight floors and whisky connoisseurs can even take a tour of a cellar for £95.
The extravagant whisky experience is understood to have created 180 jobs and is expected to boost the capital’s tourism to the tune of £135 million.
While Kilmarnock won’t physically play a role in Johnnie Walker’s past and present, Diageo did tell Ayrshire Live they believe tourists will learn about the town by visiting the new attraction.
Willie Coffey raised the prospect of a local visitor centre or a theatre room or even a café facility with a unique brand of whisky for the town to sell exclusively in Kilmarnock. But nothing came of the idea.
Mr Coffey, MSP for Kilmarnock and the Irvine Valley, was among many public figures to plead with Diageo bosses to halt the closure in Kilmarnock more than a decade ago.
But the SNP politician says he’s not giving up hope of Kilmarnock being part of Johnnie Walker’s future.
“I think new the new leaders in Diageo should look at this afresh,” Mr Coffey said.
“To recognise and honour Kilmarnock’s pivotal role in the establishment of the original company and the continuing success of the current one. The old regime who took the closure decision have probably all moved on or retired now.
“That way, the people of Kilmarnock may once gain feel that they still have a role to play in the story of the world’s number one whisky.
“After all, Johnnie Walker was born in Kilmarnock and the people of Kilmarnock helped make this company what it has now become.
“We are still immensely proud of our history and the Johnnie Walker story but we need once gain to feel valued by the company that many feel has let us down badly.
“So I am calling on the new Diageo leadership to think again and celebrate the role Kilmarnock can play in the Johnnie Walker story and to let us be part of that future.”
But if Diageo have plans for Kilmarnock to play a role in the world’s most famous alcoholic drink, they’re keeping quiet about it.