Whisky. The Scots call this lovely amber liquid “The Water of Life”. With this, you know that they take their Scotch very seriously. (For example, it’s whisky, not whiskey with an ‘e’. This is a thing.) And there are endless kinds. So if you’re new to whisky, it can be a bit daunting to figure out where to start.
My whisky palate has been cultivating for a few years now (I’m an Islay whisky girl), but if you’re like me, a million questions might run through the circuit board of your brain:
How do they make it? What kind should I try? Which distillery do I go to? (So many to choose from!) Do I have time? What if it doesn’t taste good? Is there tasting etiquette? Is there a spit bucket? (Gross! Wait, what am I, five years old?? That’s how you sometimes taste wine. Hmmm.) What if I can’t hide the nose wrinkle that happens when I don’t like what I’m tasting? What’s a good price for a bottle?
And so on and so forth.
Well, whether you only have a day or two in Edinburgh, or if you have the good fortune of getting to take your time to travel through Scotland (do it — it’s amazing), the place to get answers and whet your whisky appetite is the Scotch Whisky Experience on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. My friends and I recently started our girls trip there and it was fabulous.
Whisky’s Edinburgh home
This top notch venue offers an interactive and entertaining way to learn about the history of whisky, how it’s made, and what kind is right for you. Friendly staff greets you at the front, as does a very Hogwarts-like ghost named Douglas McIntyre — your host for the barrel ride that will take you through their virtual distillery.
You are essentially the whisky being made. One of my favourite parts was what I dubbed the yeast bubble discotheque. There are different tour options, but they all start with the virtual experience.
Your barrel drops you off for some self-learning about barreling and aging before you are guided into the theatre to learn about the different whisky regions. This is where you start using what I consider the most important sense on this journey, your sense of smell. The fact that they give you a scratch and sniff map of the regions delighted me to no end. Yes, I kept mine.
Which whisky is right for YOU?
Your guide then shifts you into the Blender’s Sample Room, where you are visited again by Mr. McIntyre and introduced to what are called the holodrams. All I could think was Harry Potter. I was so tickled by this. Yes, I know, I’m a complete dork.
You then get to choose what region of whisky you want to have a dram of. If you can’t decide, there is blend available. And then, off you go into The Collection to learn about how to taste your whisky.
(Something to remember: this is a learning experience. It’s all about trial and error, and you might love the one you choose, or you might not. That’s why your tour ends at the tasting room. I encourage you to get curious!)
Hear angels sing
When you walk into the stunning The Diageo Claive Vidiz Whisky Collection and see 3,384(!) beautifully displayed (and full) whisky bottles in their cases, there will be a collective gasp in awe from everyone you are with. The angels will sing in your mind, and you will feel like the very impressive glass and marble vault is heaven. I’m not kidding — I got goosebumps.
Your guide will take you through the tasting steps and then it’s all about the photos ops and staring at the amazing collection.
Claive Vidiz, a Brazilian gentleman who used to travel to the UK a lot for work, became a collector in the 1970’s. A friend brought him six different bottles of Islay whiskies, and he fell in love. Laphroaig is the first whisky I ever actually enjoyed, so I completely understand why his senses went “yes!”. Over 35 years, he collected the almost 3,500 bottles of Scotch that are now on display.
There’s even a Canada connection, with a few bottles of Hudson’s Bay Company Whisky from the 1960’s!
Check it out
The Scotch Whisky Experience offers a variety of tours. Any of the options are excellent to check out on your own, or with friends; and are fantastic value for money. With cost and time restraints being kept in mind, we took the 50 minute Silver Tour, but I would definitely go back to do any of the upgraded tours the next time I’m in Edinburgh. It’s going to blow the Brit’s mind!
- The Silver Tour is the basic and most economical option. It includes one taster and you get to bring home your tasting glass. (They give you a box – for which I was very grateful!)
- If you have a valid post-secondary student card, you get the Concession rate for the Silver and Gold Tours. Your student card is a valuable thing to remember for when you are travelling, as many tourist attractions, museums, etc have a student rate. So remember to bring that card!
Have a bite
If you have time for lunch, be sure to dine at the Amber Restaurant and Whisky Bar when you’ve finished your tour. Or if you want to experience Edinburgh’s culinary scene, click here to check out this blog post by my friend Amber from A Blissful Wanderer. It’s a great guide to where to eat and drink in the city.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is located just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Be sure to check it out — slainte mhath!
An appreciation of prose is learned, not instinctive. It is an acquired taste, like Scotch whisky.Abigail Padgett
This outing was made possible in partnership with the Scotch Whisky Experience. Some images have been provided by them, and have been credited as such.