RECORD visitors on the Scotch whisky trail have been celebrated by VisitScotland and drinks giant Diageo.

Whisky tourism has enjoyed another boom year with more visitors than ever making the pilgrimage to Diageo’s Scottish distilleries, according to new figures.

In the 12 months to June, the number of tourists visiting Diageo’s 12 distillery visitor centres passed the 400,000 mark for the first time, with a total of 409,908 people visiting.

This continues a trend of consistent year-on-year growth in visitor numbers over the past decade, with the global drinks giant’s Scottish distilleries now attracting more than double the number of people they did eight years ago.

The latest figures were announced at Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry, Diageo’s busiest Scotch attraction last year with a record 75,234 visitors, an increase of 7.7 per cent.

The distillery also celebrated the unveiling of a unique new whisky tasting bar which is set to become a magnet for amber nectar lovers.

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland chief, opened the new bar at Blair Athol and raised a glass to the industry for its contribution to tourism.

He said: “Whisky is one of Scotland’s most valuable commodities, with visitors from all over the world coming to our shores to experience an authentic Scottish dram.Scotland’s reputation as a quality destination relies on continued investment and innovation. This new whisky tasting bar at Blair Athol is a fantastic example of how the industry is working to attract new visitors and continue its vital contribution to the Scottish economy.”

Diageo Scotland Director, Ewan Andrew, joined Mr Roughead to open the bar and announce the record-breaking figures. He said: “Scotch whisky is not only the country’s most valuable export industry, it’s the world’s most popular spirit, attracting visitors from around the globe to Scotland. That’s great for our distilleries but it also makes a major contribution to the local economies and communities where we operate.

“We have seen visitor numbers increasing rapidly over recent years as global Scotch sales have grown, and we’re investing to ensure Scotch continues to grow and that we welcome even more visitors to Scotland in the years ahead.”