Think of a Scotch Whisky itinerary in Scotland and you might conjure up images of distilleries perched on the edge of Scotland’s western isles, enjoying a fruity flavoured dram by the idyllic River Spey, or distillery hopping on the magical island of Islay.
With so much whisky heritage across the country, I’d forgive you for using Edinburgh solely as the starting point for your adventure. Hang around a little longer though, and you can have a whisky experience just in the capital that I think will rival any other.
While we’re all still in lockdown, why not begin planning your next visit using my suggested sights...
Roughly 4,000 bottles inside the collection at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Image: Judy Gallagher / Flickr
Learn the story of Scotch in the shadows of Edinburgh Castle.
Featuring high tech exhibits, tastings, exploration of the whisky ‘regions’, a unique barrel ride and an enormous (almost 4,000 bottles) collection of single malts. The Scotch Whisky Experience is an ideal starting point to get your whisky bearings in the capital.
The old St Leonards brewery at the corner of East Crosscauseway and the Pleasance. Image: TSPL
Edinburgh’s Southside was once home to a buzzing brewing and distilling district.
Ideally situated for barley from the fertile land, power from local coal mines, and a rich supply of water from an underground source known as the ‘charmed circle’. At one stage over 20 distilleries and breweries filled the area.
Justine Hazelhurst of Kask Whisky leads our whisky walking and tasting tours of the local area delving into its rich and now mostly hidden, distilling history. Rest those weary feet with a guided tasting of drams with Justine back at our place to round off your tour!
The spirit and wash stills at Holyrood Distillery. Image: Holyrood Distillery
Well it wouldn’t be a whisky itinerary if there wasn’t a distillery involved, right?
When we opened last year, we became the first single malt whisky distillery in the city centre for nearly a century! Our focus on flavour means we’re not constricted by traditions or whisky regions. We’re focusing solely on making great tasting drams across the flavour spectrum, spicy to smokey, fruity to sweet.
Get up close with our stills, hear from our whisky experts, enjoy a dram in our bar with amazing views of the Salisbury Crags - and even bottle your own whisky to take home!
Relaxing on those amazing couches at the Scotch Whisky Society in Leith. Image: Forbes
With an unmissable range of whiskies (and rums and gins…) labeled in their own inimitable style - “Dense smoke over a tarry deck” anyone? - enjoying a dram while sinking into the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's oh-so-comfy couches in front of a roaring fire has got to be up there on any whisky lover’s bucket list.
You do need to be a member to enjoy the vaults however, so you can join online, ask a friend who is a member nicely, or enjoy their other bar, the Kaleidocscope bar on Queen Street, which is open to the public.
Teuchters Bar on William Street, a stone's throw from Shandwick Place at the West End. Image: Teuchters Bar
Another spot to quench your thirst in the centre of Edinburgh.
Teuchters Bar is centred around their large whisky selection. 90 single malts and 20-odd international & blended whiskies are stacked on their back bar, but my favourite part is their “hoop of destiny” game - land the hoop on any bottle and enjoy a dram for a set price.
If you miss the bottle, you still end up with some whisky - a real win-win! Great pub grub in there too if you need a bite.
Our "fruity" flavoured Holyrood Spirit Merchants whisky. Image: Ryan Worthington (@worthingtonphotos)
Before you head home, I recommend you hit the shops!
Cadenhead's is known to be Scotland’s oldest independent bottler of the “most remarkable never to be tasted again” whisky, and every whisky-nut needs to drop by before leaving Auld Reekie.
Royal Mile Whiskies is another fantastic retailer of whiskies and gins (you can pick ours up in here too if you forgot to at the distillery) and they ship worldwide too. There’s always a friendly and knowledgeable face behind the till.
Both are excellent places to take home a bottle of something special to remember your visit by.
So there you have it!
Those are my recommendations for a whisky itinerary of Edinburgh, but I’m sure there are plenty of places I’ve missed out. Let us know if there’s anything you’d add in, or if you’ve discovered somewhere utterly unmissable!
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