This review was originally posted on the now defunct review site, Epinions.com. Although it’s a few years old, I figured it could be useful reading on this blog for those planning a trip to Scotland. I also like to preserve my old reviews when I can. So here it is for all those interested…
Pros: Fun, informative, campy.
Cons: Kind of pricey for what it is. No discussion of Campbeltown whiskies.
- My husband Bill and I just got back from a 17 day trip to Scotland. We spent two nights in Glasgow, ten nights on the Hebridean Princess, and four nights in Edinburgh. One of the ways I managed to sell Bill on the trip to Scotland was reminding him of the prospect of getting to tour whisky distilleries. We visited both the Arran and Springbank distilleries while we were on our cruise and learned a whole lot about the process of making scotch. Nevertheless, when we approached Edinburgh Castle after a long walk on The Royal Mile, I talked Bill into The Scotch Whisky Experience, which is a tourist attraction designed to teach visitors to Edinburgh about Scotland’s national drink.
Bill and I are not strangers to booze tourism. We’ve visited a beer spa, a beer museum, and Vinopolis, in London, which is basically a museum dedicated to boozers. When we first walked into the Scotch Whisky Experience, I was reminded a lot of Vinopolis. There, on the wall, was a menu of the types of tours that were available. They ran the gamut and included everything to a master class for experience scotch drinkers to tours designed for elementary school aged kids. The desk agent told us a “silver” or “gold” tour was available within the next five minutes. The silver tour was the cheapest tour available and included a trip through the exhibit and a single scotch tasting. Because Bill and I are hedonists, we went for the gold tour, which included everything included in the silver tour, plus a year’s membership in the Scotch Whisky Experience, which entitled us to discounts on merchandise and admission, and at the end of the tour, a scotch tasting which included whiskies from four different whisky producing areas in Scotland. The gold tour cost 22.50 pounds per person, while the silver tour was 12.75. Since we later learned the whisky tasting we got at the end cost about nine pounds, we thought this was fair enough. A “platinum tour” is also available at certain times of the day. It includes more scotch tasting, including one aged 21 years.
The first part of the Scotch Whisky Experience is admittedly pretty silly. It basically consists of a short ride in a whisky barrel while a campy guy in a film explains the basic process of making scotch. It’s entertaining enough. I’m sure it’s a big hit with kids, not that we saw any in there with us. That part of the tour takes a few minutes.
Then you’re taken into a room where you are handed a scratch and sniff card with four colored circles on it. Each color represents a scotch region and the usual aromas associated with that region. A tour guide gives a brief talk about the different scotch regions: Islay, Speyside, Highlands, and Lowlands. There is a fifth region, Campbeltown, which used to be the scotch capitol of the world. Sadly, there are now only three distilleries in Campbeltown and I gathered it’s not too easy to get whisky from there, since this region wasn’t covered. Luckily, Bill and I visited Campbeltown and it’s biggest distillery, Springbank, when we were on our cruise. As you discuss the different essences from each scotch region, you scratch and sniff the corresponding color.
During the lecture, the tour guide hands out tasting glasses and asks which region you want to taste scotch from. I elected Speyside, while Bill tasted a scotch from Islay. The tasting glass is yours to keep.
After that, you visit the world’s largest scotch whisky collection. There are over 3,000 bottles in this collection, some of which are very old. None of the bottles have been opened, yet some of them have been exposed to air, which has led to evaporation.
At the end of the tour, you go into the McIntyre Whisky Gallery to see more of the collection, as well as the world’s largest bottle of scotch, which is about as tall as I am. There is a large bar in there, which offers hundreds of different scotches for tasting. You pay extra to taste scotches in the gallery, unless you’ve purchased the tasting by getting the gold tour. The scotch tasting that comes with the gold tour includes four scotches from different regions which rotate regularly. One couple that was on the tour with us and got the silver tour opted to purchase the tasting afterwards; they got one and split it.
If you want a whisky that isn’t included in the tasting, you have to pay for it. By the time we were done with our tasting, we were a little scotched out!
The Scotch Whisky Experience also has the Amber Restaurant. Bill and I did not eat there, but there is a tour that includes a meal in the restaurant or you could opt to eat there independently of the tour. I’m pleased to confirm that there are clean restroom facilities available, too.
You can’t leave the tour without walking through the shop, which offers a lot of whiskies for sale. We already had two bottles of scotch from touring distilleries, but Bill did buy a couple of minis so he could try a couple of whiskies he can’t get in the US. Sadly, you can only bring one bottle of liquor per person to the USA from abroad without paying duties.
Bill and I enjoyed the Scotch Whisky Experience. However, we probably would have been more impressed with it had we not already visited a couple of actual distilleries! If you’re just going to be in Edinburgh and are interested in how scotch is made, I think the Scotch Whisky Experience is worth seeing. It was a fun tour that ate up an hour or so.
For more information: http://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/index.php