Back in the day, the closest we could get to our favourite drink brands was through seeking out their latest bottlings, communing with them via the liquid. Where these wine and spirits were made could feel like a distant, dream-like place shrouded in mystery. Over the last few years, things have shifted – the velvet rope has been removed and we’ve been granted access into these compelling worlds where magic is made with grape and grain.
Drink experiences have exploded in popularity in tandem with the growing desire to invest in local, artisanal products with a sustainable ethos and story to tell. With social media breaking down the barriers between fans and their favourite brands, and in order to succeed in today’s era of transparency, drink companies have been busy flinging open their doors and sharing their stories with avid imbibers who are thirsty for knowledge and keen to meet the makers.
As a result, drink experiences are being elevated and reimagined – while classic winery and distillery tours remain the bread and butter of tourism operations, drinks brands are thinking outside the box, offering everything from cocktail masterclasses and blending sessions to botanical supper clubs and one-off experiences tailored to individual needs, wants and whims. Today’s drink experiences are rooted in storytelling, memory making and immersion, and are helping to recruit a new generation of lifelong enthusiasts.
With our finger on the pulse of the latest openings around the globe, we’ve rounded up 10 exciting new drink experiences slated to open in 2023, from quaffing fizz and scoffing French fancies aboard a beautiful barge in the Champagne region, to learning about Port of Leith Distillery’s unique vertical production process.
DRINKS EXPERIENCES LAUNCHING IN 2023
Japanese whisky lovers will be excited to hear that the famous town of Karuizawa will soon be home to a shiny new distillery. Spearheaded by Karuizawa Distillers, it took five years to settle upon the perfect site for the project – a woodland clearing in the foothills of Mount Asama offering gorgeous views, a cool maturation climate and plentiful water with a high mineral content. The $15m project, designed by Tokyo architects Sogo Aud, will be clad in floor-to-ceiling glass to make the most of the views. Inside, a 1,500 square metre visitor centre will run tastings and tours through its Whisky Academy for local and international guests.
Opens May 2023, www.komorodistillery.shop
Hambledon Visitor Centre and Restaurant
If you’re a fan of English fizz and enjoy the pleasing thwack of willow against leather then head to Hambledon in Hampshire – home to England’s oldest commercial vineyard and the cradle of cricket. Owner Ian Kellett has bold ambitions to turn Hambledon Vineyard into ‘the best oenoturism facility in the UK’, and his plans are due to come to fruition this year with the opening of Hambledon’s new visitor centre and a glass-fronted, seafood-focused restaurant overlooking the vineyards with its own Josper grill. With Heston Blumenthal’s former right-hand man Ashley Palmer-Watts on board as a consultant, Nick Edgar, former head chef of Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons, in charge of food, and Fabled Studio behind the décor, no expense has been spared to make Hambledon the go-to English wine destination.
Opening 2023, www.hambledonvineyard.co.uk
The Scotch Whisky Experience Visitor Centre
A single malt-lover’s paradise, The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh is getting a glossy £3m makeover this year to revamp its visitor experience. To mark its 35th birthday, the popular haunt at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile will be harnessing the power of cutting-edge tech to reimagine the visitor journey. ‘We’ll be creating a theatrical and magical experience to tell the story of Scotch whisky production, blended with technologies we believe have never before been used in a visitor experience,’ says CEO Susan Morrison. The details are being kept under wraps, but we’re promised it will be ‘breathtaking and truly unique’. The site, which includes Amber restaurant and bar, attracts 8.5m visitors a year.
Opening summer 2023, www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk
Due to make a splash on the Scottish island of Islay is Portintruan Distillery, masterminded by Sukhinder Singh of Elixir Distillers. Located just outside the town of Port Ellen on Islay’s south coast, the venue, meaning ‘place of the stream’, takes its name from the historic farm estate where the distillery is located. Slated to open in late 2023/early 2024, the site will include 14 houses for Islay families working at the distillery, a visitor centre, bar and restaurant, a tasting room bothy overlooking the sea, and a multi-purpose educational facility that will serve as a base for an apprentice programme to train the next generation of distillers. The venue will also boast an experimental distillery specialising in different styles of Scotch and alternative spirits like rum.
Opening late 2023, www.elixirdistillers.com
Coquelicot – a Belmond boat
If you’re keen to explore the Champagne region at a leisurely clip then hop aboard the Coquelicot and float down the waterways from house to house. Meaning ‘poppy’ in English, the elegant vessel is the brainchild of Belmond, the minds behind the Orient Express, so expect Champagne on tap and a luxury experience from the moment you hit the deck. The boat boasts three double cabins decorated in soft pinks and pale greens, each with its own copper tub. Voyages include a visit Champagne’s oldest house – Ruinart – where chef Valérie Radou will whip up a sumptuous lunch. Itineraries can be tailored to include visits to other houses, local landmarks and restaurants.
Opening May 2023, www.belmond.com
If you find yourself down Mexico way with a free afternoon on your hands then scope out the new Cazcabel Distillery, which will soon be opening its doors in Atotonilco El Alto in the Jalisco mountains. The US$37 million project, which shines a light on local flora and fauna, is spearheaded by father and son Alfredo and Uziel Vazquez, who are dab hands at weaving magic from Blue Weber agave using ancient production methods. Inside the distillery, an events space designed around an ancient tree will cater for guests and tours, while showcasing the rich history of Tequila. Sustainability is at the heart of the venture – 300 trees will be planted close to a distillery being powered by solar panels and wind turbines.
Opening 2023, www.cazcabel.com
Covent Garden will be turned into a malty paradise this year with the opening of a 50,000-sq-ft Guinness microbrewery in Old Brewer’s Yard, which has a history of hop handling snaking back to 1722. Called ‘Guinness at Old Brewer’s Yard’, the site will feature an event spaces and central covered courtyard, which will play host to a packed roster of food, drink and cultural shindigs as well as serving as a community space. Inside you’ll have the chance to try exciting new brews and limited-edition bottlings during tours with stout specialists, while a Guinness store will sell rare items via collaborations bespoke to the London experience. The hop hub will boast an evolving food offering at its open-fire rooftop restaurant promises stunning views of the London skyline.
Opening autumn 2023, www.guinness.com
Asahi Shuzo Brewery
New York, US
New York is soon to be home to the first Japanese-led sake brewery on the East Coast, as brewer Asahi Shuzo seeks to shake up the US drinks market with its new US$53 million sake plant. The facility in Hyde Park, 100 kilometres north of Manhattan, is slated to fire up its tanks this spring for the production of Dassai Blue, a Junmai Ginjo sake made using Yamada Nishiki sourced from Japan and the US. CEO Kazuhiro Sakurai is keen to capitalise on the burgeoning sake market in the US and plans to turn the brewery into a thriving sake hub for New Yorkers and tourists alike, introducing lovers of the rice wine to its food pairing capabilities beyond the confines of sushi and tempura.
Opening spring 2023, www.asahishuzo.ne.jp
Port of Leith Distillery
Scotland’s capital city will get a snazzy new distillery this year on the waterfront in the Port of Leith. Located next to the Royal Yacht Britannia, the venue will benefit from panoramic views from its top floor bar – the perfect spot to savour a dram or two. With Leith having served as a buzzing whisky blending, bottling and maturation hub, the distillery aims to breathe new life into the district and revive its whisky traditions. Boasting a bar, bottle shop, events space and exhibitions galleries, the distillery hopes to welcome tens of thousands of visitors a year, who will be able to get up close and personal to Leith’s unique vertical production process.
Opening 2023, www.leithdistillery.com