“ Address: 354 Castlehill / The Royal Mile / Edinburgh / Scotland „
After I'd booked our hotel for our weekend away in Edinburgh I had a look on the Internet to see what tourist attractions we might visit on the Saturday. Edinburgh Castle was top of the list because everyone had said it's a must-visit, but also because as members of English Heritage we'd get in free of charge. However it wasn't long before I came across the Scotch Whisky Experience which is located pretty much right next to the castle. Since we generally tend to visit places that I want to visit, hubby was really happy to hear that I'd chosen an attraction with him in mind.
I visited the website - http://www.whisky-heritage.co.uk - and was eager to book us onto the tour. However, when I entered the date for our visit it came up that the tour was under reconstruction. It turns out they were doing a £3million refurbishment. Although disappointed that we couldn't book a tour, the whisky experience was still on our agenda for the day.
On arrival at the Scotch Whisky Experience we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the tour refurbishment was complete after all - excellent stuff! I should note that at present you still can't book online, but I'm sure that very soon you will be able to. While it wasn't necessary for us, I would imagine that certainly during the summer period that booking onto the tour would be absolutely essential to avoid a long wait!
We noticed that there were two options - a silver tour and a gold tour, and I asked the lady on the desk what the difference was. The silver tour costs £11 per adult, and includes a whisky glass (you get given a flat packed gift box right at the start, and the glass later), and one taste of whisky, along with the tour. Children between 6 and 17 cost £5.95 (no whisky though), under 5s are free, Senior citizens, Disabled and Students cost £8.50.
The gold tour was a whopping £19, and included an additional 4 tastes of whisky, and also a year's membership to the Scotch Whisky Appreciation Society which has such perks as 10% off drinks in the bar, £2 off a 70cl bottle of whisky in the shop (which hubby took up) and a 2 for 1 offer for future tours.
Since we were on holiday, and since we'd got into the castle free we decided to splash out on the gold tour!
---Into the Barrel---
Having been on our feet and having walked a fair distance it was lovely to be seated in a barrel for the first part of the tour, a little ride round in a barrel. This part of the tour can be done in 15 different languages.
I really enjoyed this (not just because we were sitting down), it was interesting learning about making whisky, and the special effects were good (that'll be the £3million spent!). Basically a ghost of a Scottish man talked us through it - hubby and I are convinced he said 'Shite' at one point...I did try and take a few photos for reviewing purposes, but it didn't really work!
---Out of the Barrel---
Out of the barrel and we then walked up some stairs to a room with some displays....it was interesting to learn about how much whisky is lost "to the angels" - 40% over 25 years - which explains why it ends up costing so much.
Then we had a little wait in a small room. They could have done something here perhaps or had a display on the wall. We were waiting for the group ahead of us to finish in the next room.
---The Lecture Room---
We made our way into a room set out in a U-shape with comfy seats and a table in front with each person having a Glencairn glass in front of them which were our glasses to keep. These glasses are specially designed to make the most out of your whisky apparently, and they also sell them for £5 in the shop which is a bit excessive I think!
The room could have held 16 I think, there were 9 of us if I recall rightly. Also on the table were four bottles (between each pair) with coloured dots on the lids.
Our tour guide talked us through the different regions of Scottish Whisky production - there are 5, but the 4 we were taught about (as not much current production in the other) - Lowlands (obviously that includes Edinburgh), Hightlands, Islay and Speyside. There were pictures up on a screen, and the tour guide told us to smell the little bottles at the appropriate times to illustrate the different backgrounds to the whiskies.
Having told us about the single malts, the tour guide proceeded to tell us a bit about blended whiskies - I was interested to learn that the age given to a blended whisky is based upon the age of the youngest whisky in the blend. He used the analogies of a blended whisky being like a football team (with both youth and experience) and like an orchestra. We also learnt about the job of the chief blender - what a job, although mainly using the nose rather than tasting! Although hubby knows more about whisky than me, he did learn something at least.
Then we got to choose which of the four regions we would try a single malt from. I chose the Lowland (well, we were in Edinburgh), and hubby the Speyside. We weren't allowed to drink them yet though.
---The Bottle Room---
We were led into a room with the most amazing selection of whiskies, which were someone's collection. What a waste - all those unopened bottles!
The tour guide talked us through getting the most out of tasting whisky - from smelling it, to swirling it around the special glass to look at how it falls (I couldn't get to grips with this). Then came the tasting. As the man had said that some people like to hold the whisky in their mouths to get more flavour out of it, I made the mistake of trying that! I tried to stop myself, but I couldn't help but cough and splutter quite noisily! It could have been worse, I could have spat the whisky out - but it was still quite embarrassing!
Having drunk our whiskies we had a brief time to look at the bottles, but not enough time really. And that was the end of the tour...unless you have a gold ticket that is!
---I've got a Golden Ticket - The Bar---
Downstairs is a restaurant, but also the Whisky Bar. With our gold tickets we had the choice of either having four malt whiskies - one from each area, or 4 different types of whisky (10 ml servings - so just under half a shot each). Hubby had the first - Lowland (Glenkinchie 12yo), Highland (Old Pulteney 12yo), Speyside (Tamdhu), and Island (Laphroaig - which we usually have at home anyway). I had Blended (Langs Select 12yo), Blended Malt (Monkey Shoulder), Highland Malt (Fettercairn 12yo) and Grain Whisky (Cameron Brig). The whiskies were served on a wooden board with a glass of water too.
Although I'm not a big whisky drinker (but I'll drink anything me!), I enjoyed the experience and at least pretending to know what I was doing! Most importantly perhaps we learnt that the Scottish for "To your good health/Cheers" is "Slainte Mhath"!
For those who don't have a golden ticket, there is a huge menu of whiskies you can buy!
---Off to the shop---
The Scotch Whisky Experience has a fantastic whisky shop with over 300 malts on offer, along with various gifts and things. Hubby was happy to spend the best part of £40 on a 16year old Lagavulin which he then had to lug around for the rest of the day. I just bought a couple of postcards.
We were in the Scotch Whisky Experience for just over an hour. Although it was an expensive hour it was very interesting and a worthwhile experience. Well worth a visit if you're a whisky fan, or if you're just a drunk like myself! To find out more check out the website - www.whisky-heritage.co.uk - but I hope I've given a good personal insight into the experience.
Enjoy an exciting interactive whisky tour explaining the making of Scottish whisky through the ages.