Where to explore the world of Scotch Whisky in Edinburgh

  • Edinburgh Guide
  • 16 February 2011
Liquid Gold

The best single-malt whisky tastings, tours and shops

Whether you’re a single-malt expert or complete beginner, your entry to the world of whisky awaits

The purpose of Scotch whisky is to give pleasure,’ says Charles MacLean in his Whiskypedia: A Gazetteer of Scotch Whisky, and Edinburgh is the place to pursue this principle.

You can literally immerse yourself in a whisky barrel at the Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile, as you take a ride through a replica distillery to discover the whisky-making process. Experts guide you every sip of the way to a perfect glass of malt, with more than 300 different single malts, grains and blends to choose from in the shop. There’s also the chance to get up close to the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky, the Diageo Claive Vadiz Collection, which has almost 3,500 individual bottles.

It’s a good idea to wash all of this alcohol down with some food at the Experience’s award-winning Amber restaurant, where the 300 whiskies on offer can be matched to seasonal Scottish produce such as prime beef, lamb and wild salmon.

Another whisky extravaganza you won’t want to miss is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which celebrates the very best single malts produced in the country – all single-cask whiskies, from 126 different distilleries. You’ll have to be a member (or find one quickly and be very nice to them – they can sign in up to three guests each) in order to enjoy a dram at the Society’s convivial Members’ Rooms in Leith and Queen Street. The Dining Room restaurant in the latter is open to non-members.

You don’t have to be a member to walk into a shop and buy as much of the amber nectar as you like, of course, and you can pick up the big brands from any supermarket. But for a more thoughtful and extensive range you’d do better to head to one of the speciality shops in the Old Town, such as Royal Mile Whiskies or Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop.

At Royal Mile Whiskies, which has been specialising in single malts since 1991, the staff have the enviable task of sampling the produce in order to give customers the benefit of their knowledge. You won’t find a more enthusiastic, cheery bunch of sales assistants anywhere in the capital.

A short stagger down the Royal Mile finds WM Cadenhead, Scotland’s oldest independent bottler, established in 1842. Selling a range of whisky from different distillers, each from individually selected casks, they guarantee never to chill-filter, add colouring agents or chemically alter the products they bottle. Best to double check, we think – they run whisky tastings in a local pub, enabling customers to sample the Cadenhead range and other interesting bottlings. Oh, and that cute Greyfriars Bobby lookalike sitting in the window? No, it’s not the drink affecting your vision: he does move occasionally. Like the whisky, he’s the real deal.

Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop
172 Canongate, Royal Mile, 0131 556 5864, Mon-Sat, 10.30am-5.30pm,

Royal Mile Whiskies
379 High Street, 0131 225 3383

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
The Vaults, Leith 0131 554 3451
28 Queen Street, 0131 220 2044.
Advance booking for the Dining Room is recommended. Society Membership starts from £100, with an annual subscription fee

The Scotch Whisky Experience
354 Castlehill, Royal Mile 0131 220 0441
Open daily (except Christmas Day), £12 (£9.50); under-5s, free

A 28 Queen Street
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JX
Elegant first floor dining room in a Queen Street townhouse that showcases one of the city’s finest whisky selections.
B Scotch Malt Whisky Society
The Vaults, 87 Giles Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6BZ Scotland

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