January 10, 2013
Like JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, Edinburgh’s the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to Scotland’s national drink, offering some of the best city-based whisky dens in the country, from Islay drams with big personalities to the more subtle sups of a Speyside offering.
While Scotland’s main distilleries, outside of the city, are a must for whisky lovers, Edinburgh’s centre provides plenty of charm for those keen to imbibe without going the extra miles. The Scotch Whisky Experience (Castlehill), just a short skip from Edinburgh Castle, is an obvious pit stop for the more unsuspecting tourist and what it lacks in old school magic it more than makes up for with its well-informed, engaging tours – offering the finer points of whisky distillation, as well as tastings from the different whisky producing regions along the way.
Down in Leith, you’ll find the far more intimate environment of a roaring fire and comfy leather sofas courtesy of the excellent Scotch Malt Whisky Society (Giles Street). Although it’s a members’ only affair, and has nothing on the Experience’s tour element, non-members can pre-book a spot to try three specially selected society tipples, alongside a bar meal for £29. Showcasing the very best single malts produced in the country – each single-cask and coming from a whopping 126 different distilleries – the Society’s knowledgeable staff make this a truly memorable experience. Look out, too, for its more contemporary sister venue on Edinburgh’s Queen Street.
Back in town, Whiski Rooms (North Bank Street) continues to make its mark on the capital. Launched in 2011 from a former bank and bookshop, this shop, bar and restaurant holds a small whisky tasting room fit for 16 and the Ardbeg Ambassador Room for 10, with the Whisky and Cheese and Whisky and Chocolate Tastings particularly worthy of mention (just be sure to book in advance).
Alternatively, if you prefer a spot of DIY, many of the bars and pubs in Edinburgh boast lengthy dram menus; with Bow Bar, Bennets, Queen’s Arms and Roseleaf coming highly recommended. If you fancy taking away, Robert Graham Ltd and Royal Mile Whiskies each have a large whisky selection in their shop and hold occasional tastings.
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