I've known about the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, located right outside the Castle Esplanade, for a good number of years now, and in fact I even signed up for Ambassador Membership at an event many years ago.
During those years I've somehow never managed to make it in to visit, always being distracted by other places and things to do in Edinburgh. I was lucky enough though to be asked if I wanted to experience the new Enlightenment Tour and I jumped at the chance to finally have a much better excuse for not being distracted by my usual haunts.
As per normal I don't ever do late, so my good friend Richard and I were a little early when we arrived about 50 minutes before our tour time, so what should we do other than a quick look around the shop followed by a couple of drams in the Amber Bar, a very well stocked whisky bar located downstairs at the Scotch Whisky Experience.
We had a couple of drams each and a good chat with Paul who was working on the bar, he was enthusiastic, knowledgable and happy to chat whisky nonsense with us and some others who were waiting on the tour also.
The Amber Bar is very well stocked with over 400 whiskies ranging from the standard to the rare and interesting and the prices are very keen, especially considering the city centre location.
having now been in here I will certainly be popping into here again for a few drams, all served in a proper Glencairn glass and at one of the prettiest bars i've ever seen.
When the time came to go for our tour we wandered back up to the shop, again very well stocked, and had a fabulous Drambuie based Hot Toddy as we chatted with our fellow tour guests and the enthusiastic staff. It's always a good sign when you talk whisky to staff in a whisky shop and you can just see that happy glow across their face showing how much they love talking about whisky.
Moving upstairs with Charlotte, our tour guide and whisky expert for the evening, we were treated to a short presentation on the basics of Scotch Whisky, the different types of Scotch Whisky, the regions (I will forever want Islands as a seperate region but many other places also include Islands as part of the Highland region) and their general styles along with a Scratch and Sniff tasting card giving examples of the general types of smells you get from the regions.
Although this will be at a basic level for some, it is really well thought out and presented in clear and concise terms without too much technical chat, Charlotte interacted well with the group asking for, and receiving, participation from a number of the group also which was really nice to see.
For anyone with a beginning interest in whisky this will be invaluable, and for those of us with a lot of experience of whisky it's always good to have a wee refresher and test our knowledge again.
Next we were offered a dram, for us it was the Dalmore 12 Year Old (which I've actually just realised i've not yet reviewed on the site, so i will correct that soon) for a little nose and sample before we moved through to the room holding the Diageo Claive Vidiz collection.
This collection of over 3,300 bottles is a really impressive sight to see and one I would highly recommend for any whisky enthusiast, it really does put the rest of us to shame.
Whilst in this fabulous room, surrounded by thousands of interesting, rare and some very very expensive bottlings, we were given a short lesson on tasting whisky, from checking the colour and legs, to nosing techniques to avoid that spike of alcohol and get the best of the whisky, to some hints and tips for tasting and putting together thoughts.
Charlotte then produced a little plate of chocolates with which to pair with the Dalmore, it really sets it off, bringing out extra citussy and nutty notes in the whisky and adding a layer of complexity to it.
The chocolate and whisky pairing really is a great way of showing that whisky is very versatile and can be paired really well with food, the smells from the Amber restaurant downstairs also showed that the Scotch Whisky Experience have plenty of knowledge of how to do that though.
After being given a bit more of a chat about the Diageo Claive Vidiz collection and having a few of the rarer and more interesting bottles pointed out; we were guided back to the shop where we were all presented with a gift bag containing a Glencairn nosing glass and allowed time to view the shop, and make any purchases.
This Englightenment Tour is timed perfectly to coincide with the start (or finish) of the Virgin Money Street of Light which is happening just 100yards further down the Royal mile.
Overall this is a great experience which has left me kicking myself for not having been here before and continuing to be a regular visitor. Probably like many locals I've considered the Scotch Whisky Experience something I can get to anytime and as such taken it a bit for granted, but it's a fabulous experience with very friendly staff who really are happy to spend all day enthusing about whisky.
This tour normally costs £15 and is worth every penny, with a Glencairn Glass and a bit of a different experience it's certainly worth doing this, even if you are local, and it's not just for the beginners too, it's also very well suited to anyone who is interested in Whisky at any level.
I'll certainly be a regular visitor to the Scotch Whisky Experience in the future, even if it is just to see what's new on the bar downstairs.
Once again many thanks to the Scotch Whisky Experience for inviting me to partake in this tour experience and to Paul, Charlotte, Paula and the rest of the staff for making us all feel so welcome.