At Wee Walking Tours we love to share our passion and knowledge of Edinburgh on our tours, as well as our love for the whole of Scotland with our travel blog and virtual travels. However, to be honest, there are many quintessential Scottish experiences that we are not familiar with. When this happens, we gladly enlist our friends to assist us. You see, despite the fact that none of us at Wee Walking Tours family drink, we have always been fascinated with the history and the cultural impact that whisky, or I should say – uisgebeatha (the Scottish Gaelic word for whisky, meaning “water of life”)- has had on Scotland and its people. So, we figured that a good starting point for anyone interested in learning more about whisky is right here at the heart of the Old Town in Edinburgh (just a short distance from the Edinburgh Castle) and just happens to be our ‘neighbour’ on Castlehill- the Scotch Whisky Experience.
To provide our readers with a full and appropriate description of our visit, we were joined by very close family friends who we trusted to do all the tasting on our behalf. Therefore, we are confident that we can accurately describe the visit to The Scotch Whisky Experience- a truly remarkable experience for all your senses.
To start, you first have to decide what type of tour you want. On our visit we chose the ‘Gold Tour’. This included everything from the ‘Silver Tour’, plus four more single malt whiskies, and a one-year membership in the Scotch Whisky Appreciation Society. We will highlight many of the aspects of that tour within this article, but we also highly encourage you to find out more details about the various tours and offerings directly on the Scotch Whisky Experience website.
While we waited for our tour to start, we took a sneak peek into the shop…and wow! It is incredible, but we will return to that after the tour. For now, I will just mention that they have bottles of whisky that cost more than some people’s annual income.
Our tour started off by hopping into a whisky barrel! You read that correctly, but perhaps I should provide further context. Your first experience is a fun ‘dark-ride’ where you travel in a whisky barrel vehicle that brings riders through the process of whisky making- starting with Scottish springs, moving on to distillation, then barrelling, and finally to bottling. Below are a few shots from the ride, but they are only a small fraction of what you see because we don’t want to ruin the experience, which is best explored in person.
After we got out of the barrel, we made our way through rooms and hallways that provide you with more history of the casks, maturation process, and even the art of coopering in general. This is also where we learned about the ‘angels’ share’. Rest assured, there are a lot of angels around Scotland– and who could blame them!
Being the history geeks that we are, we spent quite a bit of time learning all that we could. However, it was also important to eventually move on because our fabulous guide was waiting for us in a small auditorium.
There, visitors are provided with a full sensory experience of Scotland! We were treated to a virtual trip all around Scotland with a stunning video that was enhanced with, not only the sights and sounds, but also the scents of Scotland. This sensory information is vital in understanding the regional differences in Scotland, but it also shows how those differences have impacted the various whiskies that are produced in each of the regions. This was perhaps my personal favourite in our tour experience; despite being a ‘New-Scot’, I felt an emotional connection to the sights and sounds of this beautiful land (although to be fair, I have always felt that way about Scotland).
We don’t have anything to share from this particular part of the tour because it would not be appropriate as I am sure it would violate copyright. It is also best for you to experience that part in person. However, below is a shot of a scratch-off scent card from the experience, highlighting the different regions: Highland, Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, and Lowland.
Next up was our first tasting of the tour! As mentioned, we had brought in reinforcements for this task. So, while we were offered Irn-Bru 😉, our test-tasters were given a choice of single malt from any of the previously mentioned regions, or that of a blended whisky. Fortunately, we knew in advance of the four single malts from the different regions that awaited our tasters at their taste-testing event at the end of the tour, and were able to choose the fifth region for this tasting. After all, our whisky connoisseurs wanted to make sure that all of Scotland would be covered during this visit!
Then, it was time to move on to the most impressive part of the tour – The World’s Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky. It is officially called ‘The Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection’, consisting of a grand total of 3384 bottles! This collection left me absolutely speechless, so it’s best that we provide you with a glimpse of it with the photos below (scroll through by clicking on the black arrow).
After walking around in awe of the collection, we finally made my way out into the next stop on our tour– the History of Scotch Whisky. Now, this is where this tour gets tricky for me, and it still is as I try to share this experience with you dear readers because this was also my favourite part of the experience! I say that, fully aware that I can’t keep saying that about each different section. Therefore, it is safe to say that I enjoyed every part for different reasons. Also, I do want to mention that since we don’t drink, I didn’t think that I would have enjoyed it this much. However, not only did I enjoy it, but this experience surpassed all of my expectations, and I highly recommend it for you all to experience.
Now, back to the history! The Scotch Whisky Experience provides an extensive, yet concise, history of whisky in Scotland that it is suited for all visitors. They have a wealth of information for novices like us, but also enough to entertain and educate even more seasoned whisky experts. Plus, all of their guides and staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and gladly provide more information and answer any questions. After soaking our minds with the history, it was finally time to put our friends to work with the flight of four single malt whiskies.
Now, our friends had their own favourites for specific reasons. However, I will just say that my understanding is that Scotch whiskies have just as much variations as do people’s tastes. Therefore, I am not going to make any judgements on what is the best whisky. I gladly leave that to each of you, and simply say that the best whisky in the world is the one that you enjoy the most.
As for us non-drinkers, we did not go home empty handed, because everyone on the tour received a gift crystal whisky glass, as well as the one-year membership I mentioned earlier. The membership comes with many perks, such as discounts at the shop, or on various classes and events. However, our favourite perk was the discount at the Amber Restaurant located right there at the Scotch Whisky Experience. We might not drink, but we do love food, and I can say that the Amber Restaurant excels in that! It is also a nice place for just some coffee and cakes
Before we conclude this virtual tour, lets return to the Whisky Experience Shop for a moment. It is a lot to take in, but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So here are thousands of words-
That concludes our visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience, but we will be back again for sure when we have family and friends visiting. And, we will definitely keep frequenting the Amber Restaurant. In the meantime, we sincerely and highly recommend that you make sure to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience in person when you are in Edinburgh. Just keep in mind that if you do need to walk off all those single malts you enjoy there– why not join us on one of our sobering 😉, but very entertaining and educational walking tours?!
Until next time – Explore & Discover!