Today was our one and only full day in Edinburgh and ten minutes after reaching the Royal Mile, I was almost over it. The Royal Mile is tourist central in Edinburgh and I am generally not a fan of crowds. We walked towards Edinburgh Castle from about half way along the Royal Mile and
saw the same touristy shit for sale in more than half the stores we passed (no exaggeration). We had a few minutes to kill before the Scotch Whisky Experience opened, but the funnelling and delaying effect of the castle gates made it a very unpleasant place to wait. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long and we could escape the street to the sanctuary of the Scotch Whisky Experience.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is like a museum for whisky, if museums were designed to encourage you to buy the exhibits.
We had booked the Morning Masterclass which was an excellent excuse to drink whisky at 10am in the morning. The Morning Masterclass is pitched at the ‘whisky enthusiast’ and includes a tour of the world’s largest collection of whisky and a sensory-focused whisky tasting. Our group was quite small, only six people including Dad and me and our host, Sam, was excellent. He was very knowledgeable and spoke naturally about whisky with the confidence of someone who knows what they are talking rather than just reciting some scripted phrases.
We began our masterclass by exploring the whisky collection of Claive Vidiz, although apparently if you sell a collection of over 3,000 bottles of whisky to Diageo, it becomes your first name. The Diageo Claive Videz Collection, comprises 3,384 bottles (can’t confirm, didn’t count them all) of Scotch Whisky. The majority of the Scotch on display are blends, but so is the majority of Scotch sold; none of the bottles are opened or repeated in the collection. It’s an awesome sight to see and gives me something to show my wife next time she complains I have to many bottles of whisky in my own feeble collection.
We even managed to find a bottle of Scottish Cream, the only expression I know of that was produced by the now closed, Kinloch Distillery, in Campbeltown.
After a leisurely tour of the collection, our group settled down for a test and a tasting. The test was one of the good kind, with a selection of ten numbered bottles being presented to us. Each bottle contained an isolated aroma that can be found in whisky and our job was to smell each of these and write down what we thought each aroma was. This was a fun exercise and we all enjoyed trying to put a name to what we were smelling, which is quite a difficult task for most people – myself included. Identifying differences in aromas is not difficult, knowing what that aroma is and being able to name it is the difficult part.
Next, we tasted a selection of whisky, all Scotch, but all very different.
Our selection included new make (unaged malt spirit), a single grain, a blend and two single malts. Under the guidance of Sam, we discussed their differences and compared their flavour and aroma profiles. This was exactly what I was expecting the disappointing Lagavulin tasting to be like and I’m glad I did the Morning Masterclass at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Highly recommended.
We left the Royal Mile and the endless sea of tourists and souvenirs to visit a small antique store that had caught my eye when scoping out the city. Inside was a treasure trove of old books, jewellery and trinkets. We must have stayed there for about an hour, just browsing and chatting to the owner.
Afterwards we heading to the National Museum of Scotland and spent the rest of the afternoon there before retiring to our apartment. Tomorrow, we leave Scotland and visit the last two distilleries on our trip, Borders and Cooper King.