Johnnie Walker Princes Street






Simpson & Brown




Simpson & Brown was appointed as architect for the radical transformation of this Category B-listed department store to immersive whisky visitor experience and global brand home as the centrepiece of Diageo's £185M investment in Scottish Whisky Tourism. 2020 coincided with the 200-year anniversary of Johnnie Walker, the world's best-selling Scotch whisky.

The project sought to bring back into use a vacant but iconic and well-loved Edinburgh landmark and provide it with a dynamic and appropriate new use. Diageo looked to celebrate the 200-year journey of Johnnie Walker in a building with a heritage and synergy to the brand.


We sensitively restored surviving architectural features and reinstated the lost original elements. This work included:

  • Reinstated glazed entrance canopy.
  • Restoration of the original bronze elements including lighting sconces, casement windows, decorative panels and original banking hall doors.
  • External stone repairs.  
  • Repair and restoration of the original copper roof.
  • Reinstatement of the original bronze shopfront.
  • Repair of the famous ‘Binns’ Clock to full working order.
  • Restoration of the former Banking Hall.

New Interventions

Our new design proposals were conceived to be sympathetic to the original building yet were designed to be bold and contemporary and were executed to the highest standard. This work included:

  • New rooftop storey accommodating two rooftop bars
  • The original lightwell revealed and transformed into a new 8 storey stair atrium.
  • Immersive experiential tour set over 3 floors.
  • Whisky maturation vault.
  • New vertical stacked plant room.
  • Renewal of all passenger lifts.
  • Changing places WC.
  • New event space, catering kitchen, staff accommodation and offices.


The building opened in September 2021 with a Green Tourism Gold Award, the highest sustainability accolade for visitor attractions worldwide.  In addition, the project is set to receive BREEAM 'Excellent' rating.  It was assessed by LEED, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and has achieved 'Platinum' certification, the highest possible level. Given that this concerned a historic, Category B-listed building within the constraints of a conservation area and UNESCO World Heritage site this an achievement.  

The building, post-retrofit saves circa 1 tonne of CO2 per day compared to the building pre-retrofit.  Innovation in sustainability is carried through to the unique, bespoke whisky and soda dispensing system,


Giles Rocholl