Whisky Capitals: Edinburgh

Edinburgh skyline

There are some cities where whisky is intertwined into their very fabric; where the water of life flows freely through their bars and restaurants; where locals and visitors alike can experience whisky at its very best. Welcome to Edinburgh.

With the help of Tiger White, Editor of the Edinburgh Whisky Blog, we provide you with a definitive guide to all things whisky in a city deservedly described as one of the most beautiful in Europe.

Where to have a dram

If there is one thing Edinburgh isn’t lacking, it’s welcoming pubs to sample a few drams. Tiger recommends Usquabae Whisky Bar in the west end and Whiski Rooms on The Mound: “Usquabae has a huge selection of whiskies with a focus on independent bottlers and single cask releases. It has a lovely cosy atmosphere, too. Whiski Rooms also has a great selection and you can enjoy spectacular views over the New Town whilst sipping a dram.”

Where to drink a whisky cocktail

Jostling for position alongside the city’s traditional pubs is a new wave of stylish bars. Tiger suggests stopping by The Devil’s Advocate, which you can find nestled away in a meandering close (a Scots term for alleyway) in the Old Town. Housed in a former Victorian pump house, the bar and kitchen offers an eclectic mix of world whiskies as well as seasonal cocktails crafted by award-winning bartenders. “You can’t go wrong with a well-made Old Fashioned – the guys at Devil’s Advocate make a mean one,” says Tiger.

Where to eat a whisky-inspired meal

Food at Michael Neave Kitchen, Edinburgh

From the water of life to its seafood and wild game, Scotland is blessed with a bountiful natural larder, and Edinburgh is a perfect destination not only for whisky lovers but foodies too. Head to Michael Neave Kitchen and Whisky Bar on Old Fishmarket Close for the very best in Scottish produce – and whisky, of course. Tiger says, “It is great for high-end dining at affordable prices in a very central location.”

Where to experience whisky

You can take a ride through a virtual distillery before glimpsing the world’s largest whisky collection in private hands and finding your own perfect dram at the Scotch Whisky Experience. For those after a wee dram in a working distillery, Glenkinchie, also known as The Edinburgh Malt, is a stone’s throw away from the city centre, set in the rolling barley fields of East Lothian. For something a little different, Tiger highlights Jolly Toper Tastings run by Mark Davidson. In the past, tastings have been held at memorable locations, such as aboard a boat on the Union Canal and at Mary King’s Close, a labyrinth of streets deep beneath the Royal Mile.

Where to shop for whisky

Speaking of which, there is nowhere better to get a real sense of Edinburgh’s history than the Royal Mile. Among its medieval architecture, tartan-clad gift shops and stunning sights such as St Giles’ Cathedral are some great places to buy whisky. Tiger recommends Royal Mile Whiskies near the top of the Mile for its “outstanding customer service and very competitive prices”. An ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of whisky, the team has been imparting their knowledge to customers since 1991.

Where to find a whisky hidden gem

You can find Tiger’s hidden gem, Andrew Usher & Co., tucked away on West Nicolson Street and it has a surprising history: “Aside from whisky, I love my craft beer, so for me it has to be Andrew Usher & Co. – great range of beers, it has its own microbrewery, and it’s located in a building with huge historical importance to the blended whisky industry. It was here in 1853 that Andrew Usher created Old Vatted Glenlivet – the world’s first commercially successful blend,” says Tiger.

Where to go if you only have 24 hours

In a city like Edinburgh where there is so much to do and see, cramming it all into one day is challenging to say the least. If you only have 24 hours, Tiger shares his ‘must-see’ sights: “Climb Arthur’s Seat for great views of the city in the morning, followed by lunch at the Tower Restaurant. In the afternoon, visit the National Museum before wandering up to Edinburgh Castle. Dinner would be at The Kitchin in Leith before a couple of whiskies in Usquabae Whisky Bar and a night cap cocktail in Bramble.”

Whisky map of Edinburgh