Scotland business

Diageo 'very confident' on Johnnie Walker Edinburgh plan

Artist's impression of the planned Johnnie Walker "immersive visitor experience" Image copyright Diageo
Image caption Diageo is investing heavily in Scotch whisky tourism with new visitor centres

The world's biggest spirits company says it is "very confident" that plans to open a whisky tourism centre in Edinburgh will soon be confirmed.

Diageo is in final talks for a Johnnie Walker "visitor experience" at the former House of Fraser building in the city's Princes Street.

The firm's Scottish boss David Cutter said there were also plans for similar centres across Scotland.

He said the company had also taken steps to deal with any Brexit impact.

His comments came as Diageo said interim pre-tax profits went up from £2.2bn to £2.6bn, while sales increased to £10.3bn from £9.9bn in the six months to 31 December 2018.

Brexit plan

As well as Johnnie Walker, Diageo is also responsible for several other well-known Scotch brands - and is making a huge investment in what it calls "whisky tourism".

Speaking on the Johnnie Walker visitor centre plan, Mr Cutter told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We are very confident that we will end up in that part of the town."

He added: "We're in negotiations to finalise the deal to open up the Johnnie Walker experience across Scotland.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to bring in people from around the world to Edinburgh to experience Scotland and Scotch whisky, and then venture out to the four corners of Scotland as well."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Diageo said it was in final talks to take over the former House of Fraser site in Edinburgh's Princes Street

Johnnie Walker is a 200-year-old brand - and Diageo exports seven bottles a second out of the country.

Ahead of Britain's planned departure from the European Union in March, Diageo is making arrangements to trade tariff free in the EU under World Trade Organisation rules, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"A lot of effort has gone into ensuring we can take Brexit in our stride and Diageo can manage any short term disruption," said Mr Cutter.

"We're concerned about smaller companies who may not have the same resources - we export 95% of what we make out of Scotland.

"We really do urge everyone to come together on a sensible deal as swiftly as possible."