The ultimate guide to Whisky in Edinburgh
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
A trip to Edinburgh means a lot of opportunities for you to learn about and experience single malt whisky.
If you’re looking for a bit of background on whisky, or the best place to have a whisky tasting in Edinburgh, this ultimate guide has you covered.
The history of whisky in Edinburgh
Little do visitors know when they first arrive in the Scottish capital is that there are no longer any whisky distilleries in the city. In fact, a single malt whisky hasn’t been produced in Edinburgh since the Glen Sciennes distillery closed in 1925.
But, the city holds a long and rich history of producing whisky before it all stopped. According to a 2017 article by The Scotsman, whisky production in Edinburgh can be dated back to 1505 when the Guild of Barbers and Surgeons were granted a monopoly for distilling ‘Aqua Vitae’ in Edinburgh by James IV of Scotland.
Fast forward to 1777, and the city was home to eight licensed whisky distilleries. But those were just the distilleries on the books.
The number of illicit stills at the time was estimated to be around 400. That’s a lot of illegal whisky floating around Auld Reekie!
A notable distillery was The Caledonian Distillery, which was built by Graham Menzies in 1855. It was renowned as being the second largest grain distillery in the UK at that time and was quoted as “having every improvement of machinery and new patent known to distilling”.
Closest single malt whisky distillery: Glenkinchie
While the whispers of the return of single malt whisky distilling in Edinburgh bubble away (there are projects in the pipeline for the Holyrood Distillery and another venture in Leith), tasting single malt whisky is only a bus ride away from Edinburgh.
Glenkinchie Distillery is the closest—19 miles to the east of Edinburgh (a short 40-minute drive from the centre of the city.) The distillery is one of only three in the Lowland region, and they offer tastings to the public daily.
Not a fan of Glenkinchie? Nae bother! There are 5 other whisky distilleries within a 1 ½ hour drive of Edinburgh:
Tullubardine Distillery (50 miles/1 hour drive)
The Famous Grouse Experience (53 miles/ 1h 15m drive)
Dewar’s World of Whisky (75 miles / 1h 30m drive)
Blair Athol Distillery (70 miles / 1h 20m drive)
Edradour (70 miles / 1h 20m drive)
The best place to buy whisky: Royal Mile Whiskies
Just down the road from us on the Royal Mile is Royal Mile Whiskies.
It’s been a staple on the Royal Mile for more than 25 years and has been named retailer of the year by Whisky Magazine on several occasions.
The staff know their stuff—they’re often students from the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, and Napier University whisky societies. They’ve got a massive range of Scottish single malts and quite a few rare bottlings, too.
They also release their own bottlings of limited edition whiskies and exclusive rare malts from now-closed distilleries at certain times of the year!
Where? 379 High Street, Edinburgh. EH1 1PW.
Best whisky tasting in Edinburgh: The Royal McGregor
The Royal McGregor, of course.
We’ve been doing whisky tastings at The Royal McGregor for a number of years, and we pride ourselves on being able to give a traditional pub feel to our tastings.
Whether you are a single malt connoisseur or just starting your journey into learning about whisky, our range of 90+ malts has something to suit every taste.
During our whisky tastings, you’ll learn how whisky is produced, the maturation process as well as how to taste and get the most out of your dram.
Plus, you’ll get to know the different whisky regions in Scotland and what makes each one unique. This will help in your whisky journey as you navigate through more intense regions like Islay and Island whiskies.
The tastings include 3 single malts, dark chocolate, Scottish still water as well as a McGregor whisky guide who’ll talk you through each malt!
Where? 154 High Street, Edinburgh. EH1 1QS.