If it’s not haggis that springs to mind at the thought of Scottish delicacies, it’s pretty likely that whisky is right up there. So where better to get a taste of Scotland’s tipple of choice than the capital city itself? Edinburgh’s whisky bars are bursting with hundreds of different whisky varieties. Sip a couple of drams in the city’s speciality whisky bars and whisky tasting rooms for a taste of proper distilled whisky the Scottish way. Or, if you’d rather a more entry level taste of the local spirit, head to one of Edinburgh’s many hidden underground bars for whisky cocktail - that’s all good, too!
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Read on to find out the best places to try whisky in Edinburgh...
The Scotch Whisky Experience
Step inside the largest collection of Scotch whisky in the world, right in the heart of Edinburgh. Just a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh Castle, the Scotch Whisky Experience is the ideal place to learn about and get a taste of some of the country’s best whiskies. Here you’ve got a choice of a number of different tours whether it’s the basics of distilling whisky with a taster at the end, or a full-on in-depth tour of the process along with Scottish food pairings. Seven different tours are available that range from £16 and go up to £75, so you’re bound to find one that’ll suit you. No need to book in advance for the less expensive ones, just show up, buy your ticket and tag on.
Whether you know your stuff or you’re a total newcomer to the whisky scene, the Whiski Rooms is a great spot for some tasting. Whisky tasting at the Whiski Rooms is a fun, laid-back event that they host daily, and you really don’t need to know anything about whisky to enjoy the experience. You’ll find the tasting room in their adjoining shop, hosting introductions to whisky as well as whisky and chocolate and whisky and cheese pairings.
Not looking for a tasting session? Head here for an affordable 2 or 3 course meal and order a few drams to go with the seasonal, Scottish food served up here. The whiskies range in price from affordable for beginners to more premium for the pros.
The Abbey Bar
Venture south out of Edinburgh’s city centre to the Abbey Bar, a perfect pit stop after a walk through The Meadows. At the Abbey you’ll get a warm Scottish welcome with a local atmosphere and more than 200 whiskies behind the bar. Treat yourself to a flight of 3 local whiskies for £9/10 along with a proper Scottish meal at a really affordable price. Or get the lowdown on the Abbey Bar’s collection and join in on one of their whisky tasting events - just check their website to see when the next one is.
Over in the west of Edinburgh city centre you’ll find a place called Teuchters Bar, the word meaning ‘highlander or anyone from the North’. Find the bar, also known as ‘A Room in the West End’ tucked away down a small cobbled street in, you guessed it, the West End. The old-school Scottish beer and whisky spot is a favourite amongst locals especially, serving up cheap and tasty local food as well as its massive menu of whiskies and locally brewed beers. Teuchters has a huge 90 single malts behind the bar, along with around 20 international bottles, plus you’ve got a chance here to win a malt whisky with a game of Hoopla!
There’s also Teuchters Landing which is in Leith, so if you find yourself around here then be sure to pop in for a dram or two.
The Bow Bar
On one of the most famous and colourful streets in Edinburgh you’ll come across a bright blue and very quaint-looking spot called the Bow Bar. Don’t be fooled by its small exterior, as inside you’ll have an extensive 390 whiskies (almost all Scottish) to choose from. From the Highlands, Lowland, islands and more, the Bow Bar has whiskies from all over Scotland, and their cask ale selection would more than satisfy any beer lover, too. If you pop in for a whisky, be sure to ask the bar staff for their recommendation based on what you like, and you’re pretty likely to see a dog or two hanging out in the corner as well!
Sift through the forgotten whisky gems inside Black Cat on Rose Street which is a gem in itself. Pop in for a flight of whisky tasters whenever you want, and the bartender will go out of his or her way to make sure you try a few that you’re likely to enjoy. Then they’ll explain a bit about each whisky as you taste. Black Cat is the ideal place if you’re a whisky novice looking for a casual tasting session and a really fun, relaxed atmosphere - plus you might be there in time for a bit of live folk music, too.
Arcade Haggis and Whisky House
If there’s one place in Edinburgh which serves up a real Scottish storm, it’s the one that specialises in both haggis and whisky. The Arcade Haggis and Whisky House in the centre of the Old Town is one of the most popular spots in the city to taste Scottish haggis and, of course, whisky. Relax in the warm and friendly pub with one of their over 100 whiskies, and try their signature stack of haggis, neeps and tatties.
The Devil’s Advocate
Want a taste of Scottish whisky but know you won’t like it neat? The Devil’s Advocate is based in an old Victorian pump house and it rustles up some of the best whisky cocktails in Edinburgh and is by far the best choice for someone who thinks they’re not a fan of whisky to give it another chance (however there are plenty more cocktails on the menu than only whisky-based, don’t worry!) The award-winning bartenders change up the cocktail list with the seasons, plus there’s always draught beers, ciders and wine if whisky or cocktails really aren’t your thing.
Yet another Old Town gem is this one on Hope Street. Usquabae Whisky Bar and Restaurant won ‘Whisky Bar of the Year in 2018’ and for good reason. The hidden, basement tavern is packed with so many different whiskies that they don’t just have a menu, they have a Whisky Library! Within it you’ll find whiskies from all over Scotland and many international brands of all different ages. You might feel a little overwhelmed at the massive selection, so why not go for one of their already put together Whisky Flights for 4 drams and someone to guide you through each.
In the heart of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile, Albanach is a whisky bar inside an old, medieval building which opens out into a quaint yet modern pub. At Albanach they only stock whiskies that are the best of the best - a whole 220 of them including a good range of rare malts. Can’t decide between beer or whisky? Do it how the Scots do and order ‘a hauf and a hauf’ meaning a beer with a whisky chaser! Sticking to the theme of this article, you can also go on their ‘Whisky Tour’ and get a paddle of three or four whiskies to taste.