ALMOST one-quarter of a billion pounds has been spent or pledged for investment in distilleries in one part of Scotland.
Statistics from the Moray Economic Partnership (MEP) show that about half of the 50 working distilleries on Speyside have been or will be expanded or upgraded, while there are plans for at least two new distilleries.
Among the developments are a £100 million distillery and visitor centre near Craigellachie for The Macallan; expansion and/or upgrades worth £70m at eight of Diageo's distilleries; and around £50m on a new distillery at the village of Carron, by Chivas Brothers .
MEP chairman John Cowe said it was gratifying the whisky industry, a key part of the Moray economy, was expanding. He said: "For millions of people, especially in the Far East, growing income has brought with it a desire for luxury products like the kind of Scotch whisky produced on Speyside.
"Many of Speyside's distilleries are expanding to cope with that increased demand four, five, six years down the line. But it is also pleasing that distilleries and hotels in the area see the potential for bringing more visitors to this wonderful part of the world."
He said the MEP, a public-private consortium, was established to help diversify the Moray economy, traditionally focused on whisky, food and defence.
But he added: "That doesn't mean we ignore our successful industries; instead we look to building on our strengths and how we can broaden the benefits they can bring. I think we are seeing that in these figures produced by the MEP."
Last year the equivalent of 1.23 billion bottles of whisky was exported, worth £4.3 billion to the economy.