The Scottish are known for a lot of things, chief among them a love for whisky and a passion for distilling. Scotch is one of the largest exports of the nation, and is now worth more than a few billion as an industry, but there’s no doubt the best way to get a good dram is to come to Edinburgh and have a taste from the source.
There are all types of whisky on offer here, from some surprisingly sweet single malts to smoky concoctions full of peat. Whilst many people are sure they don’t like, or simply can’t appreciate, the wonders of Scottish whisky, we at Orbzii are just as sure that given the right instruction and with a bit of knowledge, anyone can learn to be a bona fide whisky lover, especially if given the opportunity to do so in the home of Scotch. So, get your tastebuds ready, because we’re going to show you the best of Edinburgh whisky tours.
Located about forty minutes away from the centre of Edinburgh by car, the Glenkinchie distillery is probably the only full–on whisky distillery in the Edinburgh region, as most of them are a bit further north towards Aberdeen and would require more than a few hours to really enjoy. However, you definitely aren’t missing out too much as Glenkinchie is home to the Edinburgh malt, which is an incredibly important component of the world-famous Johnnie Walker whisky brand.
The most popular tour is the Glenkinchie Flavour Journey. This takes you on a tour of the distillery whilst giving you vital background knowledge about the company and the area, showing you why they produce the very best of Edinburgh whisky. The tour itself takes around 90 minutes, and includes the chance to sample three drams of the finest scotch in the East Lothian region.
With a home right in the heart of Edinburgh, Holyrood Distillery is the closest you’ll get a full-on whisky distillery in Edinburgh. Whilst they brew all sorts of different spirits here, including gin and gin liqueur, the whisky tour is the most popular by far.
Although Holyrood Distillery is quite small scale, it is a fully working one and you will get a very intimate look in how to make Scotland’s 2nd favourite drink after Irn-Bru. The physical building also has a lot of history behind it, having once been part of Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway; in fact, many parts of the railway still exist under Holyrood Park! Like all good tours, the experience here includes at least three drams of locally distilled whisky, and there’s no doubt you’ll come out of it with a renewed appreciation for the drink.
A restaurant and store, Whiski Rooms offer some of the best and most in-depth whisky tastings in the centre of the city. As far as Edinburgh whisky goes, you can’t do much better than what’s available here, and the knowledge you gain from the session goes a long way to appreciating why so many people love this drink so much.
The tastings are daily and can be combined with other glutinous goods (with Whisky and Cheese, and Whisky and Chocolate being two of the most popular tasting combinations). Not only do you get to learn about how scotch is made, but you also get the chance to sample a number of different drinks, depending on the option you choose.
The “Introduction to Whisky & Tasting” is a firm favourite, and at just GBP 30 offers you plenty of bang for your buck. You learn about the most famous whiskies from the country and have a lot of fun at the same time (helped in no small part thanks to the four drams of single malt you get during the event).
If you’re already a bit of a whisky aficionado, then you should definitely pay the extra GBP 20 per head (GBP 50 in total) for the “Premium Whisky Tasting” option, which offers a chance to sample some truly special drinks.
Widely regarded by locals and whisky lovers as the best whisky store in central Edinburgh, the staff at Cadenhead’s are as friendly as they are knowledgeable. There are a tonne of different tasting options available in their famous tasting room, and sessions can be run for just one person, or up to twelve.
The general ‘Whisky Tasting Experience’ is the most popular, but they also offer ‘A Trip Around Scotland’ and ‘Vintage 21’ tours, which are for those who know a little more about scotch and want to experience what the best of Edinburgh whisky and beyond. The main draw of Cadenhead’s is that they always have six ‘living casks’ to sample; this is fresh and unique whisky that has slightly subtle changes in flavour every day, so if you’re really into your dark spirits, then we’d heavily recommend going in for a taste.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
Situated in the heart of the Scottish capital, the Scotch Whisky Experience does exactly what it says on the tin. Although it’s one of the busiest and most touristy whisky tasting experiences, don’t let that scare you away: there’s a reason it’s so popular. Not only do they have the world’s largest collection of scotch whisky, they also teach you about the different aromas you might find in a whisky, and teach you about the history of the drink, including how the country came to produce it in such quantities.
With the Gold Tour package, you get 2x 50ml single malt whiskies plus an exclusive, Scotch Whisky Experience whisky, which their experts have blended themselves. You also get a distillery map of Scotland and discounts within the attached bar, so you can put your newfound knowledge to the test.
This tour is probably the best for whisky lovers who are with people who have a little less knowledge or love for scotch; by the end of the tour, they’ll be converted into dram lovers!
Only got one day to spend in this historic city? Take a look at our guide to the ultimate 24 hours in Edinburgh.