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Visiting the Diageo Archive: an emotional journey through time

Diageo | Whisky Experience

February 5, 2023

A Story of Legacy, Heritage, and Passion

Diageo, the multinational alcoholic beverages company, is more than just a brand that produces and sells drinks. It is a story of heritage, legacy, and emotion that spans through several centuries and multiple continents. And like any empire, Diageo has its own commemorative monument: the Diageo Archive. The MNIW team had the honour to visit this incredible place. Now, we want to share our experience with you.

But what exactly is the Diageo Archive?

From the earliest days of distillation to the most recent innovations in mixology, Diageo has always been at the forefront of creating new and exciting experiences for its customers. The Diageo Archive is exactly that: an incredibly emotional immersive experience.

Indeed, emotions play a significant role in the Diageo Archive. The company’s rich history is full of tales of passion, triumph, and adversity. From the first distillers who dared to experiment with new ingredients and techniques, to the modern-day mixologists who are always pushing the limits of creativity and innovation, the Diageo Archive is a story of people who followed their hearts and made a difference in the world.

But what’s inside this special vault?

Inside the Diageo Archive

For those who love the rich history and tradition of the alcohol industry, visiting the Diageo Archive is like living THE dream. 

The Diageo Archive is based in Menstrie, near Stirling. It’s one of the most comprehensive collections of alcohol-related materials in the world. The Archive is a treasure trove of information and memorabilia that tells the story of the company and its many brands, including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Guinness. From old advertisements and rare photographs to original recipes and vintage bottles, the archive is a window into the past. As you visit the place, you can explore the history of Diageo and the stories behind its iconic brands. Indeed, the Archive is a reminder of the company’s rich heritage and a source of inspiration for future generations of drinkers and entrepreneurs.

How can you visit the Diageo Archive?

The Diageo Archive is not open to the public. But fear not! You can always ask for an appointment to access this incredible place. You can get in touch with Diageo’s archives team through their official website for more information and to make a visit request. Moreover, you can have a virtual tour of the archive! 

In the meantime, we will share our experience with you, so you can visit the archive through the MNIW team’s eyes.

Entering the Diageo Archive

As you approach the Diageo Archive, you are presented with what could be an ordinary house. A huge house…but still a normal house! However, as soon as you cross the threshold, you immediately realise that you have stepped inside a monument. The testament to the grandeur of a brand.

When you step inside, you are transported back in time to a world of elegance, sophistication, and refinement. The archive is filled with fascinating exhibits, including vintage advertisements, photographs, and bottles, as well as original manuscripts. All these documents offer a glimpse into the history of Diageo and the alcohol industry as a whole.

One of the most exciting things about visiting the Diageo Archive is the opportunity to explore its vast collections. As you make your way through the exhibits, you can’t help but feel in awe at the greatness of the archive’s holdings.

Wandering Around the Archive

As you explore the archives, you immediately feel a deep sense of reverence for the rich tradition of the brand. You are struck by the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into the creation of each bottle, and the care that was taken to develop each label.

Every corner of the Archive has a story to tell about the passion and dedication of the people behind the brand. And that’s what makes this experience so emotional. Each document, record, and bottle are a testament to the hard work and determination of those who have dedicated their lives to this industry.

Pages from History

As we have already mentioned before, The Diageo Archive contains a wide variety of documents that transport you back in time.

From the financial records to the thought-provoking board minutes, you can almost feel the passion and dedication of Diageo’s employees as they worked to build a successful company. Striking photographs capture the spirit and essence of Diageo and its brands, showing the smiling faces of employees, the beauty of its facilities, and the pride and joy in its products. Moving letters of correspondence between employees, suppliers, and customers, offer a glimpse into the personal connections that have helped to shape the company.

Legal documents, such as contracts and licenses, showcase the hard work and determination it took to make Diageo a reality. Advertising materials, posters, and promotional items brim with creativity and evoke a sense of excitement, while audio-visual materials, such as film and video, bring Diageo’s story to life. And last but not least, product samples, prototypes, and other memorabilia evoke a feeling of nostalgia and provide a tangible connection to Diageo’s history.

Indeed, all these documents provide a comprehensive look at the evolution of Diageo and its brands. A precious insight into the company’s operations, marketing strategies, and cultural impact. 

The Liquid Library

One of our favourite parts of the Diageo Archive is the Liquid Library: a collection of rare and historic spirits.

Each bottle holds a story, a rich tapestry woven from a bygone era when artisans and craftsmen poured their hearts and souls into every drop. From velvety smooth Scotch whiskies to sophisticated brandies, the Liquid Library is a celebration of the art of distillation, a tribute to the passion and dedication of those who came before us. To enter its doors is to take a journey through time, to experience the beauty and depth of the world of spirits like never before. The Liquid Library is not just a collection of rare liquids, it’s a place where emotions run deep and new memories are created.

The Walker family started the collection in 1867. The Library serves as a time capsule for everything ever produced by the brand, starting from humble Ayrshire beginnings in the 1800s to the present day. Today, it hosts more than 10,000 bottles.

The room is climate-controlled, with carefully managed temperature and humidity levels to ensure the longevity and preservation of the rare spirits. The lighting is subdued, creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere. The shelves and cabinets are crafted from fine materials, such as wood and glass. It’s a place where one can feel the reverence and passion that goes into the creation of each bottle and the importance of preserving their legacy for generations to come.

The oldest bottle of whisky in the archive

You may be wondering which is the oldest bottle. It’s actually a bottle of whisky! To be more precise, it’s an original bottle of Old Highland- the forebear of Johnnie Walker Red Label –  dating back to around the 1880s. Interestingly enough, there is a special guest inside the bottle: a rather sinister-looking snake.

No one fully knows how the reptile got there. Rumour has it that the snake got inside the bottle after a trip to the Far East. Hence, if snakes scare you, be aware of that! But it won’t bite, we promise.

A bottle of Old Highland dated back to the 1880s with a snake inside. The photo is from Diageo Archive

In conclusion

Visiting the Diageo Archive is a truly emotional experience. From the awe-inspiring collections to the rich history and tradition of the alcohol industry, the archive offers a fascinating glimpse into the past.

Diageo generally only open the doors of the Archive to employees and researchers, as a means of learning from the past to innovate for the future. Yet, if you are lucky enough, you can get inside. How? As we said, try to contact the archive team through the Diageo Archive.

As an alternative, you should also know that Diageo opens the doors of its archive on a special occasion, such as International Scotch Day. Naturally, on these special days, tickets are highly exclusive and they go sold out within hours. How can you avoid missing these exclusive openings? Subscribe to the MNIW newsletter and you will receive the latest news from the whisky world! 

*The cover of this article is a photo from Adventure in the Whisky

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