Spring into whisky city
Spring is the ideal time to take a trip to Edinburgh and explore the city’s rich whisky offerings – from learning more about the spirit, visiting a distillery, diving into the Society’s world of single casks and finishing with a nightcap before retiring to your room above the historic Vaults. Moa Nilsson is our guide on this whisky-fuelled spring break in Scotland’s capital
Start the day at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and enjoy the view at the castle before embarking on a tour at The Scotch Whisky Experience. The Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection is definitely a highlight with its 3,384 bottles and the impressive bar offers a wide selection of Scotch whisky that might be too tempting to resist. If it’s still a bit too early there’s also the option of having a cup of coffee and a slice of cake before being on your way. This is a great tour for those who want a good introduction to whisky and it’s also possible to upgrade the tour with an additional tasting flight for those who want to.
Continue the day by going for a stroll down the Royal Mile and Victoria Street, stop to listen to the bagpipes and have a look in the various whisky shops you’ll find here. Royal Mile Whiskies, The Whisky Shop, Jeffrey Street Whisky & Cigars and Cadenheads all have a lovely atmosphere and helpful staff who really know their whiskies.
Time for some lunch! The SMWS Members’ Room at 28 Queen Street is located in an impressive Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh’s New Town in the city centre. It’s the perfect stop off for some food, especially if you want to pair it with a characterful dram or two. Even if you are not a member of the Society yet, the groundfloor Kaleidoscope Bar is open to anyone who fancies a colourful flavour experience. For those who have become members already there’s the members-only bar upstairs to explore. Check out the current Outturn of new Society bottlings to discover a whisky that suits your mood, or ask the friendly staff behind the bar for their favourites – they always have something interesting to recommend.
The most recent addition to the Edinburgh whisky experience scene is Johnnie Walker Princes Street, which opened less than a year ago. Enjoy a tour and learn more about the fascinating history of the Kilmarnock grocer John Walker and sample highballs and old fashioned cocktails like you’ve never tried them before. The rooftop bar also offers a unique and stunning view of Edinburgh. If you are looking for more of an in-depth tasting of some interesting whiskies, then there’s also the Whisky Maker’s Cellar experience or if you’re just looking for some innovative whisky cocktails, then the menu here won’t disappoint. Why not try the Smoky Giggle Juice that combines Guinness, ice cream and whisky?
If you would rather combine a whisky experience with some gin as well, then Holyrood Distillery offers tours through the distillery where you get to see both the gin and the whisky stills and learn more about what they do while eagerly awaiting for their spirit to turn in to whisky. Although the distillery hasn’t released any spirit old enough to be called whisky just yet, the gin is definitely worth a try if you like juniper focused gins, and it is inspired by how they are making their whisky. If you are curious about what’s to come from the distillery they also have four different new makes made with different yeasts or barley that offer a wee preview of the spirit before any maturation.
Bonus: Keep an eye out for the new whisky bar around the corner from the distillery: Tipsy Midgie that offers an extensive choice of various whiskies, from hard to find expressions to new releases.
After a full-on day it might be nice to take a seat on a comfortable leather sofa, sit next to a roaring fire and enjoy the charming setting of The Vaults. It’s a perfect location for several hours of lounging with friends and a relaxed dinner (I highly recommend the haggis and an Oily & Coastal dram to match!). It’s definitely worth checking if there are any tastings or events on at the SMWS venues as it is an excellent way to try some new whiskies along with new acquaintances. Don’t forget to admire the curious art in the ceiling of the Members’ Room which depicts various happenings throughout whisky’s history.
When you feel like retiring for the night, you won’t have to go far if you are staying in the Apartment Above The Vaults which also provides an excellent location if you also feel like exploring the popular area around The Shore in Leith. Nearby you have access to cosy cafes, the Royal Yacht Britannia and if you’re feeling lucky don’t miss a game of ringtoss at the Teuchter’s Landing bar where your ring tossing skills decide what dram you’re getting. If you miss, then it’s a Sheep’s Dip for you!