Members on track

One of the things we love about our whisky community is meeting kindred spirits and being introduced to their stories through our ambassadors who host tastings in Members’ Rooms, partner bars, hotels, distilleries and sometimes even trains. If you’ve ever gazed out the window of a train reflectively (perhaps with a dram in hand) and dreamt of the day when rail journeys were the only way to travel, read on!


Society member Emily Robinson is originally from Buffalo, New York but these days you’ll find her in London. “I grew up in a military family, so have lived almost half of my life in Europe. I moved to the UK about 11 years ago for work,” she says. Today she and her husband own a sustainable finance firm in London. In 2019, her husband gave her a Society membership. “I have a friend who has been a member for many years,” she says, “so it was a nice surprise!” Her friend Ashley joined the Society not long after. Since then, the two have been frequent visitors to 19 Greville Street and taken part in several Society virtual tastings.

In August, Emily and Ashley travelled on the Royal Scotsman’s Scotch Malt Whisky Tour, a one-of-a-kind train journey that starts and ends in Edinburgh. “We arrived and were offered a small whisky tasting at the Balmoral Hotel, where we checked in for our train journey,” says Emily. “Because of Covid restrictions, our train was only filled to half capacity, so it turned out to be a nice small group we got to know very well.”

One of the soon-to-be familiar faces was Les Harrow, ambassador for the trip. “Les was a wonderful ambassador and guide throughout the journey,” Emily says. “Along with the onboard tasting, he guided us through the distillery tours and encouraged us to try many different types of whiskies, as he was very knowledgeable about almost everything!”

The whirlwind five-day trip is packed with beautiful scenery with plenty of food, whisky and live entertainment. The trip also includes visits to three whisky distilleries: Tomatin, Macallan and Tullibardine.

“We spent the next several days traveling around the Highlands to places such as Keith, Elgin, Kyle of Lochalsh, Boat of Garten, Cairngorms National Park, and then back to Edinburgh,” says Emily. “The great thing about our distillery visits is that they were all different; from one of the largest, a medium and one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland. We also did an onboard tasting and tried many new whiskies.”

ABOVE: Ashley and Emily at 28 Queen Street

ABOVE: Ashley and Emily with Les and the train’s whisky ambassador Sylwia and train manager Fredrik

Ashley and Emily with tour guide Gavin at Tullibardine

And after trying so many whiskies, were there any changes to Emily’s favourite flavour profile?

“I love the Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits and Old & Dignified,” she says. “But I have started exploring more peated whiskies, something I’ve never really enjoyed before.”

The key to finding new whiskies to enjoy is simple. “My advice is to not expect to love or hate anything based on the different SMWS flavour profiles,” says Ashley. “They help in selecting whiskies you’d like to taste, but don’t be afraid to try something you normally wouldn’t, you may be surprised!”

All good things must come to an end, but at least in the case of this trip, there was coffee and a trip to the Members’ Room to soften the blow.

“At the end of each journey there is an open invitation to any of the train passengers to join me at Queen Street for morning coffee and an opportunity to visit one of our Members’ Rooms,” says ambassador Les.

“Both Emily and Ashley joined me and then advised me that they had a couple of days in Edinburgh prior to boarding the train and made sure they visited both The Vaults and Queen Street venues while they had the opportunity, but this didn't stop them wanting to visit Queen Street again!”

As many members will agree however, it’s hard to pick a favourite amongst the Society’s Members’ Rooms. “I have been fortunate enough to visit each of the Members Rooms – Greville Street in London, Bath Street in Glasgow, and Queen Street and The Vaults in Edinburgh,” says Emily.

“I love that they are all so different, each location has its own style, food, and events, but are all similar in that they have friendly staff and are very welcoming.”

SMWS ambassador Les Harrow serving up some special Society drams to Emily and Ashley on the Royal Scotsman train

Find out more about the Royal Scotsman's Scotch Malt Whisky Tours in 2022