Our weekend trip to Edinburgh and 7 things you probably didn’t know about Scottish whisky

Walking towards Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

Last Friday around noon we hopped on a plane to fly up to Edinburgh until Sunday night. It was the first time in Scotland for both of us, so we happily embarked on a full-on tourist adventure.

Castle, ghost tour and more

We walked around the Royal Mile, checking out every shop along the way, and we tried to visit Edinburgh castle but backtracked after we saw the masses waiting outside to buy tickets. To be fair, we must have picked the busiest time and day to do this. We ended up buying some souvenirs in the castle shop, because, even if you don’t go in, you can still get some proof that you’ve been there, right?

The statue of Greyfriars Bobby

At night we went on a pretty entertaining ghost tour that led us to the cemetery, which is most famous for a wee little dog called Greyfriars Bobby, finally being buried with his master after spending about 15 years by his grave. Along the way, we also checked out the damp, dark vaults of the city at South Bridge.

Can't leave Scotland without trying haggis

We admired the pretty spectacular view from the top of Calton Hill and spent hours walking around the incredible National Museum of Scotland. Most importantly, we stopped for some delicious sweets and coffee more than once.

Our views from Calton Hill

Of course, we also tried the typical cuisine, as in haggis. A crumbly dish with peppery flavour from minced sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs) mixed with onion, oatmeal and spices, and commonly served with tatties (mashed potatoes) and neeps (turnip), which we washed down with a wee dram of whisky.

The highlight - our whisky tasting

Speaking of whisky (written without the ‘e’ in contrast to American and Irish whiskey), our whisky tasting on Friday night at a place called the Whiski Rooms was probably the highlight of our weekend trip. It lasted over an hour and involved five different drams of whisky as well an incredible amount of information.

We only shared the table with six other people, and our whisky connoisseur lead us through the jungle of Scottish whisky with countless entertaining stories to go with the facts.

The only (blurry) photo from our whisky tasting

First things first. A single malt Scotch has only three ingredients: Malted barley, yeast and water, but you probably knew that. But what about these little nuggets of whisky wisdom?

  • The colour of the whisky results from the type of cask it was aged in. You get e.g. golden/honey-coloured whisky from bourbon casks and amber/reddish-coloured whisky from sherry casks. The type of cask the whisky was matured in also determines to approx. 60% the flavour of the final product

  • The age printed on the bottle of a blended whisky refers to the youngest whisky in the bottle, e.g. 12 means that the youngest whisky in the bottle is at least 12 years old. Once bottled, Scotch doesn’t age anymore, so you can keep it forever if it stays sealed. Once opened, a bottle will last around two years, with shrinking shelf life the lower the level drops. This is due to the increased amount of air in the bottle that oxidises the spirit

  • When whisky comes out of the barrel, it typically consists of a very high percentage of alcohol and is then diluted with water, to a minimum of 40%, to reduce its strength. Our whisky expert gave us the advice to look for whisky that has around 46% of alcohol as it hasn’t been watered down too much

  • Angel’s share: This term refers to the amount of whisky that is lost from the porous casks due to evaporation. The loss in volume counts for 1% - 1.5% each year

  • We tried different ways of tasting. One was to add a drop of water to the whisky with a pipette, which completely changes its character due to a chemical reaction. This method was especially favourable for whiskies aged in bourbon-barrels. We also stuck our fingers in the glass, swirled it around and subsequently rubbed it on the palm of our hands to extract some of the smokiness from the whisky in our glass. It really worked!

  • The company's founding date on the bottle often refers to the date when the company started paying taxes i.e. made it legal to sell their whisky, so some of the whisky companies are up to 100 years older than stated on the label

  • Neat, with ice, watered down - there is no right way to drink whisky. There are a few established ways to taste it properly so you can extract all the flavours, but ultimately, how you drink it, is totally up to you and no-one should tell you otherwise – I’m quoting our whisky expert here!


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