WHISKY enthusiasts flocked to Scotland’s distilleries in record numbers last year.

As the industry ploughs hundreds of millions of pounds into improving experiences for visitors, new figures show more than two million visits were made to Scottish distilleries last year. This was up 6.1 per cent on the year before, figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) show, and 56% on the number of visitors in 2010.

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And there was an increase in spending over the year by visitors, too. The SWA found spending at distilleries rose by 12.2% to £68.3 million, which was 154% more than in 2010.

The industry body said the increase in distillery visits reflected the growth of Scottish tourism generally as well as increasing interest in Scotch. Tourists of more than 20 nationalities visited distilleries last year, with Germany and the US providing the biggest numbers. The number of visitors from France, Spain, the Netherlands, China and India increased.

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Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, said: “We’re delighted that Scotch whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit. The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink. But it also reflects a growing curiosity about Scotch whisky.”

Big investments in visitor centres are being made by major players such as Diageo, which is developing a Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh. Smaller whisky firms, including Isle of Harris and Ardnahoe on Islay, have also made visitor facilities central to their businesses.