Scotch Whisky Tasting in Edinburgh

I’ve never been much of an alcohol connoisseur. Drinker, yes. Expert, certainly not. I like a few beers, generally in the wheat and blonde families. I enjoy wine when the time is right, but know nothing about it. So Scotch whisky tasting was a relatively new experience for me. It was a lot of fun, and I realized that a beverage can be sipped, not gulped, and still be enjoyed; and it doesn’t need to be mixed with something, either. (Just a little ice will do, though I know some would even frown upon that.) Here are the varieties we tried and the places we tried them, plus very general reviews. I will not be talking about “notes” or “finishes” as I honestly have no idea what that means.

Location: The Dome, 4 George St., New Town

We were served by a less than friendly bartender who nevertheless got us off to a great start.

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Dalwhinnie 15yo at the Dome
  • Whisky #1: Dalwhinnie 15yo
    A light, mild, high-quality beverage.

Location: The whisky bar at Amber Restaurant, in the Scotch Whisky Experience, 354 Castlehill

Our well-versed and friendly bartender Caleb selected a range of four whiskies for us, and kindly answered all of our (mostly basic) questions. 

  • Whisky #2: Auchentoshan 12yo
    This was a strong lead-off for our tasting. Smooth and drinkable; good for first time tasters, for sure. Distilled in Glasgow; aged in bourbon casks.
  • Whisky #3: Scapa Skiren
    This may have been our favorite of the day. Light and smooth and enjoyable. Distilled in Orkney; matured in first-fill American oak casks.
  • Whisky #4: Glenfarclas 21yo
    The priciest and oldest of the whiskies we tried, this one was good but not our favorite of the day. Distilled in Speyside.
  • Whisky #5: Caol Ila Moch
    This was by far our least favorite of all the whiskies we tried. Described as smoky and peaty, I might describe it as “bacon-y.” I’m glad we tasted it; it helped us figure out what we did NOT like. Distilled on the Isle of Islay.
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The lineup at the whisky bar at Amber Restaurant, in the Scotch Whisky Experience (steps from the entrance to Edinburgh Castle)

Location: The Queens Arms, 49 Frederick St.

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Two happy travelers at the Queens Arms

Our friendly, patient and helpful waiter recommended amazing whiskies and fabulous food. One of our favorite dining and drinking spots of the trip. This was the hungry, thirsty end of a long day, and I don’t remember anything specific, other than my notes on the back of a receipt. I will share them verbatim here, and I’m sure you’ll find them illuminating.

  • Whisky #6: McCallan Gold—Speyside. “:)”
  • Whisky #7: Glenkinchie (I can’t remember which.)—East Lothian. “:)?”
  • Whisky #8: Balvenie Doublewood (My friend drank, I tasted.)—Dufftown. “:)”
  • Whisky #9: McCallan Amber (My friend drank, I tasted.)—Speyside. “:)”

Additional notes: All went well with haggis lollipops.

The bottle I came home with

I ended up bringing home a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15yo, my first love, purchased in the most convenient location of the duty free shop at Heathrow Airport. When I got home, I bought some large ice cube trays so they would melt more slowly. I cracked it open last week. I’m happy with my choice. Sláinte!

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