From a traditional pour to an experimental cocktail, Auld Reekie's must visit whisky joints and what you should order
With increased interest in recent years and new distilleries opening all the time, it's impossible to ignore Scotland's favourite tipple: Scotch whisky. From historic beginnings to a new wave of craft spirits there is a diverse range of bars in which to enjoy your whisky right here in Edinburgh. Whether you're looking for a simple serve in traditional surroundings, a twist on a old favourite, or to explore something new, we've compiled a list of some of the best bars in Edinburgh paired with the perfect dram to order whilst there.
Tasting notes: Traditional Scottish heritage and hospitality... This hidden basement bar has a whisky menu that would keep any die hard whisky drinker happy. From independent bottlings of recognisable brands to teenage St. Magdalene and pre-war Mortlach, there aren't many distilleries not represented here. Enthusiastic staff, traditional Scottish fare and regular whisky tasting events make this a great spot for dinner. Usquabae is a restaurant that straddles tradition and modernity with ease.
Suggested pairing: Glenfiddich Project XX... If you are lucky enough to find this special bottling then it really is a must try dram. The Project XX represents a new wave of flavour by putting control in the hands of the people who spend their days championing Scotch whisky: the Glenfiddich Ambassadors. Having selected 20 casks from a warehouse of thousands, they have created a layered whisky full of fresh pear, plum and oak spice; perfect to enjoy whilst relaxing in one of Usquabae's dining alcoves.
Tasting notes: A classic, revisited... It's safe to say most of us have a soft spot for Victoria Street's Bow Bar. With over 300 malts on offer and a range of beers on cask and keg, this traditional city boozer definitely deserves to be revisited. It may not have the modern aesthetics of some of its trendier neighbours but what it lacks in modernity it more than makes up for in comfort and character.
Suggested pairing: Glenfiddich 12yr... Often cited as the single malt that started it all and seen as a jumping off point for many whisky drinkers, this whisky offers classic quality and nostalgia at an entry level price. With a crowd pleasing style, fresh fruit aromas and a delicate sweetness to suit any palate this is a rewarding dram that reminds you why you love whisky in the first place.
Tasting notes: A new twist on the whisky legacy... For those of you looking for a more traditional whisky experience Scotch at the Balmoral offers tweed clad surroundings, leather sofas and a bespoke whisky cabinet that spans one entire side of the bar area. Situated in one of Edinburgh's top five-star hotels, you may assume that you need to be on your best behaviour at Scotch but the friendly staff are there to help you relax and enjoy a dram or two in their company. With over 500 to choose from you may well need to pick their brains to find the right one to suit your tastes, or you could always treat yourself to a hand-selected whisky flight.
Suggested pairing: Glenfiddich 15yr old Old Fashioned... With so much to choose from you should revert to this classic cocktail so you can take your time deciding on what to have next. It's not that the cocktail list here doesn't have some fantastic tipples to tempt you, it's just that a well-made Old Fashioned, in this case mixed with Glenfiddich's complex 15yr old, suits this bar to a tee. Sink into one of those leather sofas, loosen that tie and savour the quiet surroundings in style.
Tasting notes: Take your hauf 'n' hauf to the next level... With sister bars in Aberdeen, Stonehaven and Glasgow, Six°North has a reputation for opening drinkers eyes to exciting beers from around the world with an emphasis on the continent. Where the other bars on this list may focus on spirits, 6DN is a temple built to celebrate beer with forty constantly changing taps and an extensive bottle list. While you're there why not grab one of their 'deconstructed sandwich' cheese and meat platters to help soak up the brews and discover the beauty of beer and whisky matching.
Suggested pairing: Glenfiddich IPA Experiment... What better place could there be to explore the popular exercise of enjoying a beer and whisky side by side than 6DN? With craft beer styles from around the world you are sure to find the perfect pairing. I'd personally start with the innovative Glenfiddich IPA, which is in good company here having spent time maturing in casks which previous held an India Pale Ale brewed in Speyside. A zesty mouthfeel is joined by hoppy, earthy tones which balance with classic Glenfiddich sweetness. Forget relaxing by the fireplace, this is about setting light to the rulebook and opening your eyes to a modern whisky drinking experience.
Tasting notes: Why wallow in the past when you can use history to inspire the present... The Voyage of Buck may only have opened its doors just over a year ago but since then it has been making waves in the bar community. With award-winning bartenders on hand to create cocktails for their extensive menu, Instagram-friendly food and a relaxed atmosphere, tVoB is a forward-facing cocktail bar with strong links to the past. The building itself was once the residence of noted adventurer and philanthropist William 'Buck' Clarence and great care has been taken to use his travels as inspiration for a conceptual cocktail menu that features spirits from around the world.
Suggested pairing: Peach Hiball... It's safe to say that many whisky drinkers still scoff at the thought of using single malt in a cocktail, but the simple fact that these whiskies have such recognisable flavours actually means they are perfect for mixing. The Peach Hiball - inspired by Buck's time in Paris – is a refreshing long drink featuring Glenfiddich 12yr old, rosehip and black tea. Inviting floral notes combine with fruitiness from the whisky while sweetness mingles with citrus, oak spice and tannic tea.
The Glenfiddich Experimental series combines the brand's passion for pushing Scotch Whisky boundaries and collaborating with trailblazers from the whisky world and beyond.