I'm not sure about where you come from, but here in Scotland May is officially Whisky Month! And as 2015 is VisitScotland's Year of Food and Drink it's an especially exciting month to be celebrating Scotland's national drink. (Scotland's other national drink, Irn Bru, is celebrated the rest of the year.)
Whisky is distilled in five main areas of Scotland, and each distillery has a unique history and heritage, resulting in a unique taste for each of the whiskies they produce. Whisky is big business in Scotland, and growing, with one major distillery alone anticipating making 15 million litres of pure alcohol a year by 2017.
To be able to call itself Scotch whisky (or Scotch for short), the product has to be made in Scotland and matured in casks for a minimum of three years. Many whiskies are matured for a lot longer, and the length of the maturation process is given on the label - so when you purchase, for example, a 21-year-old single malt, you can know exactly how long it has been waiting for you to drink it! Whiskies are traditionally bottled at between 40-43% proof (pure alcohol by volume).
Many people visiting Scotland are keen to find out more about its whisky, to visit the distilleries where it is produced, and (of course) to sample the products themselves. But as massive as the Scotch industry is, to truly understand and appreciate the art and heritage of Scotch takes more than picking up three miniature bottles for £10 at a tourist shop on the Royal Mile!
If you want to experience the world of Scotch whisky during your visit to Scotland, I offer a number of recommendations which will give you a great quality introduction to the world of whisky...
Firstly, I have teamed up with the connoisseurs at Jeffrey St. Whisky and Tobacco to offer a regular Whisky Walk, giving you a small-group guided tour of the Canongate and Holyrood areas of Edinburgh, before you enjoy a tutored tasting of a selection of quality Scotch whiskies. Whisky Walks are priced at £20 per person, and numbers are limited so advance booking is recommended.
I'm also pleased to be able to offer a private tasting at Jeffrey St. Whisky and Tobacco as an optional add-on to any of the private tour packages that I offer - contact me for more information.
The Scotch Whisky Experience, on the Royal Mile, will give you a very brief introduction to Scotch, but more a more authentic experience, plan a trip to Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian, a short drive outside the city. This is by the more the most accessible functioning distillery in Scotland, although if you have a chance it's well worth trekking up to the Highlands, and especially to Speyside, where the concentration of functioning distilleries is greatest (and the scenery is wildest!).
And if you're visiting Edinburgh during May, you might be interested in an evening blending blues music, Cuban cigars and Scotch whisky, hosted by the folks from Jeffrey St. Whisky and Tobacco, on 21 May 2015. Entry includes lives music, two Cuban cigars and two single malt Scotch whiskies. Booking details and more info here.
Edinburgh Expert is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh with 18 years of experience living and working in the city.