THE SCOTCH WHISKY EXPERIENCE
First of all true Scotch whisky fans never spell it with an “e”. However, despite rumours to the contrary they do often add a little water to the spirit to open out and expand new flavours and smells. These were just a few of the facts I learned at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. Located in what was once a schoolhouse, built in the 1800’s, just down the road from Edinburgh Castle, the place now educates visitors on the details of producing and enjoying this legendary Scottish beverage.
To begin, guests are seated in a moving barrel, a Disney sort of ride that, with the helpful ghost of a Victorian era distillery manager, takes you up close and personal to the manufacture of whisky. The only two ingredients are barley and water. The barley is allowed to sprout, toasted over peat fires, then ground to grist. The smokier the peat fire, the more it flavours the whisky, hence the sometimes very smoky flavours of the spirit. Only the purest of water is used, therefore the distilleries are located on pristine rivers and streams.
Many of the characteristics of a good Scotch are obtained from the type of cask used to age the spirit and how long it remains in the barrel. A certain amount will evaporate and older whiskies are very costly because large percentages or the merchandise simply disappear into thin air.
After the barrel ride we enjoyed a presentation on sampling Scotch whisky by our personable and well spoken guide (a living one this time), then proceeded to the tasting room where we were educated on the proper way to check the whisky’s colour and clarity, evaluate its body by rotating the glass on a 45 degree angle to check its “legs” then smelling and finally tasting. This experience was considerably better because we were surrounded by the : “World’s Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky”, featuring 3,384 bottles of the spirit, beautifully back lit in a glass case.
The four main types of single malt (i.e. unblended) Scotch are Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Islay (pronounce “eye-lah”). The Lowland spirit is pleasant and citrusy while the Highland is heavier and has fruity tones. Speyside is little more smokey. While the heavily peated, smoky Islay has its fans, I thought it tasted and smelled like a pair of socks worn for an overtime hockey game.
Silver Tour guests get to try one variety of Scotch and Gold Tour guests sample all four.
Guess which one I chose!
IF YOU GO…