If you’re a whisky lover, or just enjoy the occasional wee dram, Edinburgh’s Scotch Whisky Experience is a must-visit attraction…
Established in 1988, the Scotch Whisky Experience has become one of the most fascinating points on Scotland’s whisky map. Located at the top of the historic Royal Mile, just a few hundred metres from Edinburgh Castle, the attraction makes for a convenient stop on any tour of the city but its reputation as an exhibition of Scotland’s wider whisky culture in its own right draws visitors from every corner of the world.
Whether you’re an aficionado or just a casual fan, the Scotch Whisky Experience promises to unlock the secrets of Scotland’s favourite spirit. So, if you’re planning a visit, or simply wondering what to do on your trip to Edinburgh, check out our insider’s guide to get the most out of your time in the Scotch Whisky Experience.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is at the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town - making it a convenient 15-minute walk from the city’s central Waverley Station - which connects to every major location across Scotland and England. Its position on the Royal Mile means visitors will have to make the fairly steep climb up the Mound, towards Edinburgh Castle, but the trip can be made in a taxi, or even a bus, for those with mobility issues.
The Scotch Whisky Experience itself is installed in a converted school-house, a building which dates back to the 15th century. The facility has been tailored to welcome all guests - and is fully accessible, with wheelchair access to all areas, hearing loop integration, and access for guide dogs.
There’s more than one way to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience: you’ll choose from a variety of packages each of which involves a tour of the facility, and a chance to sample a dram of scotch in a tasting session. Packages range from the introductory ‘Silver’ tour to the ‘Platinum’ and ‘Gold’ tours, which include expanded, in-depth tasting sessions, and greater access to exhibitions.
The Scotch Whisky Experience also offers educational tours, ‘Masterclass’ tasting sessions, and a special ‘Taste of Scotland’ package that includes a meal in the adjoining Amber Restaurant. It’s worth noting that some tours are only available to over 18’s and, of course, during tour tasting sessions, under-18s get a soft-drink instead of whisky.
Don’t expect to spend your time in the Scotch Whisky Experience looking at dusty bottles. The first stop on your tour is an innovative introduction to the whisky production process: visitors sit down in a ‘whisky barrel’ carriage, and take a ride through a ‘virtual distillery’, complete with gigantic bubbles, pipes, stills, and other distillation paraphernalia.
Accompanying the barrel ride is a ‘multi-sensory’ presentation on the aromas of whisky. The presentation takes place with the help of an interactive film, projected on a wrap-around screen: visitors use ‘scratch and sniff’ cards to explore the various whisky aromas of Scotland - and decide which they like the best.
Every tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience allows visitors to sample scotch whisky - while the Silver tour offers a dram, the Gold tour includes a tasting tray of four scotches. If you’re a whisky beginner, don’t worry: the tastings are accompanied by a guide who’ll answer any questions you might have. If you’re seeking a more in-depth experience: the Platinum tour treats visitors to a ‘guided’ nosing and tasting session - and a chance to taste the Scotch Whisky Experience’s own exclusive 30th Anniversary blend.
For whisky experts, or anyone wanting to take their knowledge to the next level, the Morning Masterclass package is a chance to put your sensory abilities to the test, with a range of scotch nosing and tasting opportunities.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is home to a collection of scotch unlike any other. The largest collection of its kind in the world, the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection is made up of 3,384 individual bottles, arranged and displayed in cabinets that lend the exhibition room itself a suitably golden glow. Whisky lovers might spot some of the rarest and most eccentric bottlings on the planet, while younger visitors can embark on a treasure hunt to track down numerous hidden curiosities.
‘The Collection’ offers a glimpse into the history and heritage of world whisky - and the exhibition room can even double-up as an unforgettable event space for private engagements.
Whisky and food:
If you’re interested in pairing your whisky with delicious food, then it’s well worth paying a visit to the Amber Restaurant and Whisky Bar - which neighbours, and is connected to, the Scotch Whisky Experience premises. In the Amber Restaurant, you’ll find a mouth-watering selection of Scottish cuisines - ingredients lovingly, locally sourced - and, of course, an expertly-curated selection of whiskies.
You don’t have to visit Amber for the whisky-food pairings: the venue also includes a coffee-shop and bar, so you can stop by for lunch, dinner, or even a spot of light refreshment.
More than just a gift shop, the Scotch Whisky Experience’s on-site shop won’t disappoint whisky fans, or indeed anyone looking to take a piece of their visit home with them. Stocking over 477 varieties of whisky, it’s one of the best whisky stores in Scotland and is staffed by expert advisors who’ll help you find your perfect bottle.
The shop is actually very much a part of the attraction’s unique appeal - beyond its stock, space includes a fascinating ‘flavour map’, and an interactive display screen which guides customers to their preferred distilleries.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is a place for everyone - and makes for a memorable stop for families, couples, or tour groups on explorations Scotland’s capital. Be aware that the attraction can get busy, especially in the city’s summer festival months, or its traditional Hogmanay celebrations. Fortunately, it is possible to book ahead to make sure you get on your preferred tour.
Where to stay:
If you're feeling inspired to take a trip to Edinburgh's Scotch Whisky Experience and looking for a base to stay in the city, take a look at our range of cottages in Edinburgh.