ARCHIVE - October 22, 2018
So much to drink, so little time. A Guide to the Best Whisky Bars, Tours and Tastings for your weekend getaway. Why not come with us on our Easy Edinburgh Weekender, which will give you free time to explore to your whisky-loving heart’s content?
Edinburgh is for Whisky Lovers
Since the Middle Ages, Scots have crafted the “water of life” to heal ailments, keep a body warm throughout winter, and of course, to celebrate. So it’s no surprise that Edinburgh is mecca to connoisseurs, with innumerable opportunities to sample the biggest variety of whiskies from every region and style. With our guide, find the best whisky bars, sample rare single malts, learn from the experts in a master class, or all of the above during your five day weekend break in Edinburgh.
But before you go, a brief primer on local drinking etiquette. When drinking with friends, always “stand your round,” or buy a round for the group. Scots would raise an eyebrow if you didn’t. And don’t worry, what comes around goes around. We’ll leave you with this toast, which may come in handy while raising a glass on your holiday. Slainte!
With CIE Tours Easy Edinburgh Weekender, the centrally located Mercure Edinburgh Haymarket is your base. Breakfast at the hotel is included, along with an orientation tour on the first day to get you started. You can choose to spend your time any way you like, but if you’re up for a whisky weekend, here are our recommendations our favorite stops along the way…
Day 1: New Town
Music and Malt. The Black Cat is a gorgeous pub on Rose Street with 150+ malts, a friendly staff that’s well versed in whisky, live Scottish folk music several nights a week, and a relaxed, fun atmosphere.
Day 2: Old Town and Grass Market
Go to School. The Scotch Whisky Experience offers popular tours about the history, making (and tasting) of whisky, and has one the world’s largest collections. Already a connoisseur? Develop your tasting skills further with the 90-minute morning Masterclass.
Dine with spirits. Once a Victorian pumphouse, the Devil’s Advocate exudes a rustic meets modern hip vibe, has an eclectic selection of 400 whiskies, the award-winning bartenders are known for their inventive cocktails, and the menu of locally sourced modern Scottish fare is unparalleled.
A classic Scottish pub. The Bow Bar was dubbed Edinburgh’s best pub in 2017. The no-frills bar with an extensive selection of 390 single malts (and plenty of ale) is beloved by locals and tourists alike.
DAY 3: New Town
Try the Glayva. You may have noticed this spiced whisky fusion in the outdoor markets or at festive celebrations. Created by a bartender in Leith to warm the dock workers in the winter of 1947, Glayva means “very good” in Gaelic, as it was dubbed by the first customer to taste it.
Sip single malt in style. The elegantly appointed Scotch Whisky Bar at the historic Balmoral hotel offers over 500 malts, blends and vintages from the Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, Islay and Speyside, some so rare they’re kept in a vault. Kilted “whisky ambassadors” help you with your selection, and pair it with a snack (smoked almonds or chocolate).
Gastro-pub, at your leisure. Tucked beneath a cobblestone street, this library-like pub is a romantic nook to enjoy a culinary feast. It’s also a relaxing to escape from the busy city to watch a match on TV, read in the chesterfield armchairs, and sip your whisky (which they are known for) slowly.
Join the club. On the ground floor of the exclusive Scotch Malt Whisky Society, the Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar is open to the public, and the best place to sample a wide selection of rare single-casks that the Society is famed for. The Dining Room is perfect for an elegant, whisky-infused meal. If you’re lucky, you’ll get an invite to the members-only rooms upstairs. Memberships are available at the attached shop, and start at £65.
Day 4: Royal Mile
Learn from a tutor. The small independent shop Jeffrey Street Whisky and Tobacco offers tastings that weave the history of whisky-making into a compare and contrast blind sampling of whiskies. Or shop their collection of rare and limited whiskies, which may lead to an impromptu with their knowledgeable staff.
A perfect pairing, plus dinner with a view
With 500 whiskies, tutored tasting and pairing events such as “Whisky and Chocolate” or “Whisky and Cheese,” Whiski Rooms’ tasting room is the place to further develop your palate. It’s also an award winning classic Scottish restaurant. Try the Haddock and Chips or Haggis, both are excellent. For an excellent view of Edinburgh, snag one of the coveted window tables.
Day 5: Old Town
Last Call. Bring home some of your favorites. Cadenhead’s is the oldest independent whisky bottler in Scotland, and a bit of an icon in the whisky world. Take the time to talk with the incredibly knowledgeable and passionate staff, who will help you with your selections.
Looking for more expert advice? CIE Tours provides a local host in Edinburgh to help you with anything you need.