One of the first things I learned on my first trip to Edinburgh is that the Scots like their whiskey. The second is that ’round these parts, whiskey is spelled without the ‘e’, so whisky it is. With that being the extent of my whisky knowledge and this being my second visit to Scotland, it was time to dive into the deep end, and that’s how I ended up at The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh’s Old Town. I mean, if you’re going to learn about whisky, you may as well go to the source in Edinburgh!
Inside the Scotch Whisky Experience
After a quick lesson on Scotch whisky, it was time for a sensory perception test. Every participant was given a worksheet and we were then tasked with identifying 10 scents commonly found in whisky. At this point 10 little glass jars with scented cotton were passed around and we each tried to identify the mystery scent. Let me tell you, it was hard!
I thought I would do well having spent the previous day sniffing different botanicals found in gin, but that was not the case. If you take a look at my worksheet you’ll see that I thought I could smell: medicine, marzipan, sugarcane, candy, books in an attic, butter, a blend of peaches and banana, vinegar, Vick’s vapour rub, and one scent so horrid that I labelled it as poison. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I did not pass with flying colours.
I won’t spoil the experience by giving you the answers, but I’ll confess that I only identified two scents correctly: marzipan and vinegar. The rest of my group didn’t fare too well.
We then moved on to the tasting. We each had 4 glasses of whisky in front of us, and then came the task of drinking and trying to pick out the 10 scents we had previously identified.
The verdict: no future master blenders were found in our group.
Blending my own Scotch whisky
Next up it was time to get creative and make our own whisky. Our instructor suggested that we use a single grain for 60-70% of our blend, and then get creative with the rest; had Highland, Lowland, Islay and Speyside whisky to play around with.
If you know your whisky, this is the fun part, but it can also be a little intimidating; you don’t want your whisky souvenir to be a dud. That’s why I ended up enlisting the help of my instructor and took her advice on what percentages to use for my blend. (Kind of cheating, I know!)
Since we were in a small group, at the very end, we asked our instructor to do a blind nosing of our whiskies and see which one she liked best. What was funny is that she unknowingly ended up choosing mine, which was the one she had helped create! I guess I walked away with a good whisky after all.
3,384 bottles of whisky on the wall
Last but not least it was time to visit the whisky collection, which is comprised of a whopping 3,384 bottles!
This impressive collection was started by Claive Vidiz, a whisky enthusiast from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Vidiz began collecting bottles of whisky in the 1970s; from the rarest to the most accessible, he amassed them all, and after 35 years of collecting bottles from around the world, his collection found a new home in Edinburgh’s Scotch Whisky Experience.
Setting foot inside the collection was like stepping into a glass maze. Rows upon rows of bottles glowed with the gold beverage, and hidden amongst them were two of the oldest bottles of Scotch whisky in the collection; one dating back to 1897 and the other to 1904.
Each of the different tours at the Scotch Whisky Experience take you through the whisky collection, so even if you’re short on time or on a bit of a budget, you won’t miss out on this.
How to visit & book your tour:
The Scotch Whiskey Experience offers a wide variety of tours. You have The Silver Tour, which is 50 minutes in length; The Gold Tour, which is 70-90 minutes in length; The Platinum Tour, which is 90 minutes in length; and The Taste of Scotland, which is 3 hours in length. Each tour delves a little deeper into the world of Scotch whisky through guided nosings and tastings. Aside from this, they also have a Morning Masterclass, where people can further refine their skills.
We did the Blend Your Own session, which is a private event that you have to book in advance. If you’re thinking of doing this one, it’s best to get together with a group of friends because it can be a little pricey if your group has less than 10 people.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is located in the Old Town of Edinburgh right outside Edinburgh Castle. They are also open 7 days a week year-round, so there’s no reason to miss out!
Have you tried Scotch whisky?
How did you like it?
This trip was made possible in partnership with Visit Britain and iambassador.