HeraldScotland: James MacTaggart, Director of Operations and Production at Isle of Arran Distillers James MacTaggart, Director of Operations and Production at Isle of Arran Distillers

As Director of Operations and Production at Isle of Arran Distillers what changes have you seen in whisky tourism on the Isle of Arran over the past few years?

Over the last number of years, we have seen a large increase in visitors to our Distillery situated in the northern village of Lochranza – in 2018 we recorded 120,000 visitors coming through the doors of the Distillery and award-winning Visitor Centre.  Earlier this year we opened a new Distillery on the southern tip of the island called Lagg Distillery.  We built Lagg Distillery and the state-of-the-art Visitor Experience for two main reasons – to increase and diversify production and provide another visitor attraction on the island in response to the continuing growth of whisky tourism in Scotland.  Based on the increasing number of visitors to Arran each year, we expect the total number of visitors to both Distilleries to reach more than 200,000 by 2020.  For an island with a population of around 5,000 we have proven ourselves to be a must-see destination to tourists and whisky lovers alike.

HeraldScotland: Lagg DistilleryLagg Distillery

With two Distilleries now present on the island how important is the visitor experience to a working Distillery?

Born and bred on the Isle of Islay and starting my career there, I can remember the days before Distilleries were seen as a tourist destination. The gates were closed and a Distillery’s primary goal was production rather than tourism.  Nowadays no holiday to Scotland is complete without visiting a Distillery and its Visitor Centre.                The history of whisky making on the Isle of Arran goes back to the 1800s when smuggling from the island to the mainland was rife. In 1995 we revived whisky distilling on the island with the opening of Lochranza Distillery and next year we will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary alongside the 1st Anniversary of Lagg Distillery.  Now with two Distilleries we recognise more than ever just how important it is to balance the requirements of production alongside welcoming visitors who want to see, touch and taste the whole experience of what goes in to producing a world class Single Malt Scotch Whisky.


How has your Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) membership contributed to the successful growth of whisky tourism on the Isle of Arran?

Through our close partnership with Visit Arran and membership of The Association of Visitor Attractions (ASVA), the STA allows us a voice within the wider Scottish tourism industry.  It is important that we are represented across the whole of the industry as our visitor appeal is wide reaching; from day-trippers to the island, to holiday makers and whisky enthusiasts from all over the world.  The STA offers us valuable support with wide ranging tourism matters.  The staff from our Visitor Centres benefit from attending STA conferences and events where they can network and develop best practices in the tourism industry which plays an important part in us being able to offer two of the best Distillery Visitor Experiences in the country.

What future plans do you have in place to build on the current success of whisky tourism on the Isle of Arran?

We have recently developed our “One Island, Two Distilleries” campaign to ensure a coherent relationship between the two Distilleries and make sure our visitors are fully aware that we offer a unique experience at both destinations. In the north, Lochranza Distillery is the home of the unpeated Arran Single Malt whilst in the south, Lagg Distillery is producing a heavily peated spirit so the island can offer visitors a true all-round whisky experience. With Scotch Whisky tourism at an all time high we plan on making sure we are well prepared to meet the future demands of visitors to the Isle of Arran and ensure they receive a very warm welcome and top-class experience.