Electrosonic at the Scotch Whisky Experience

Edinburgh - Scotland

The Scotch Whisky Experience, sited right next to Edinburgh Castle, opened for business in 1988. During the winter of 2008-2009 the visitor attraction was completely revamped and the “new” experience opened in May 2009. Electrosonic completed the AV installation for the attraction, which included synchronised lighting, sound and video for a dark ride.

The Barrel Ride at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Here visitors are passing a copper pot still. The tunnel of animated lights represents the cooling of the wash in a copper coil referred to as the “worm”. Photo Adrian Ray.

The Scotch Whisky Experience is sited in an old school building right next to the entrance to Edinburgh Castle. It includes the Amber Restaurant (café style by day, gourmet dining in the evening) a well stocked shop, and a conference space – but the main attraction is the “Experience” itself.

While waiting to enter the Experience, visitors can look at a wall of historic photographs. One of them is a portrait of distillery manager Douglas McIntyre. The portrait is a little disconcerting, every now and again McIntyre’s eyes follow you. McIntyre (played by actor Stephen Wren) is to become the “Ghost Host” of the first part of the attraction.

This is a dark ride, where the ride vehicles are “whisky barrels”. As visitors board the ride an attendant uses a touch panel to select the required language; at present the system caters for no less than 15 different languages. Each barrel is equipped with a multi-channel audio system, augmented by sound from within the scenic elements of the ride.

The ride is divided into ten sections, each describing a separate stage in the production of malt whisky, such as malting, the mash-tun, distillation and maturation. Each section uses a combination of scenic elements, lighting effects and video images. Douglas McIntyre pops up in most of the scenes in ghostly form to explain what is going on.

The ghostly presence of Douglas McIntyre appears through a curtain of “raindrops”

On leaving the ride visitors pass through a small exhibit devoted to the art of cooperage (barrel making) and then in to one of two “Sensory Rooms”. Two are needed to maintain visitor flow. From here on visitors are in groups of 25 hosted by a guide. Translations of the guide’s presentation are available in the 15 languages via Acoustiguide wands, supplied under a direct contract.

At each seat in the Sensory Room there are four glass jars and an empty glass. The guide describes the different whisky producing areas of Scotland, and in particular the different aromas and tastes associated with each. Visitors are invited to smell the contents of the jars, each of which corresponds to a different area.  The guide stands next to a large video screen (2.75m wide) and the supporting video sequences, and appropriate lighting scenes, are triggered as required by the guide using a wireless remote control.

Before leaving the Sensory Room, each visitor makes a choice of the type of whisky they prefer, and a dram is poured into the empty glass. Bearing the glass, visitors move to the Diageo Claive Vidiz  Scotch Whisky Collection.

This amazing collection consists of 3,400 different bottles of whisky collected over a 35 year period by Brazilian Claive Vidiz. It is the largest collection of its kind in the world, and includes many rare or unique examples. In the area housing the collection the guide explains how one should taste whisky. The guide can also use push button selected lighting “scenes” to identify different groups of whiskies.

The final part of the Experience is an exhibition area that houses some of the most interesting bottles in the Vidiz collection, that has a splendid view over Edinburgh rooftops, and where one can buy a drink or two.


The metallic walls of the malt deposit. Milling is suggested by rotating gobos projecting “cogs” Photo by Adrian Ray.

The technology

The aim of the system design was that it should be based as far as possible on standard products without compromising the design objectives. Each “barrel” in the ride has an on-board control system. This consists of an AMX NI-900 controller, an Alcorn McBride AM4/E solid state audio player and a JBL GTO 5355 multi-channel amplifier. Within each barrel there is one main speech loudspeaker, four “Exciter” loudspeakers attached to the barrel structure for special effects and two Aureal bass “shakers” fitted to the seats. An Ampetronic induction loop system is fitted for the hard of hearing.

The barrel location is determined by the NI-900 counting pulses from the WGH ride electronics which produce a pulse every time the barrel passes over a trigger on the track.  When a new location is reached, the IR transmitter and receiver are used to synchronise on-barrel and on-set AV events.

The ride uses three principal video display devices. The ghostly appearance of Douglas McIntyre in the “rain” scene requires a tall image in a small space; it is achieved by stacking four 42 inch Orion Infinite Plasma screens. Elsewhere display is either by 46 inch LCD screens from NEC, or by projection using Panasonic PT-D4000E DLP™ projectors.

Susan Morrison, Director & General Manager of the Scotch Whisky Experience, concluded "The AV elements at The Scotch Whisky Experience bring together an intriguing interplay between light, sound and physical movement in a sensational drama that has assisted in ensuring that our new visitor experience remains at the forefront of Scottish visitor attractions.

Behind the scenes the Electrosonic team engineered the synchronisation of complex AV elements to create the outstanding special effects that have brought our concepts to life.  In addition to managing their own team, Electrosonic coordinated the scheduling of AV related independent subcontractors, providing a vital service to us, that was beyond their contractual obligation.

Despite setbacks that substantially reduced the construction timeframe, Electrosonic’s professionalism and commitment contributed to an extremely successful and well-received end result with overall visitor numbers increased.”


Read the press release for additional information on the technology used at the Scotch Whisky Experience.


The Mash Tun section of the ride is based on a five-screen presentation using 46 inch LCD displays.


The Diageo Claive Vidiz collection. The main collection is in the Tasting Room where the guide can use lighting control to identify different groups of whiskies. Some of the most interesting bottles are in the final exhibition area.