Edinburgh is packed with places to enjoy your favourite dram but if you wanted a bottle of something particularly special to take home, where are the best places to buy Scotch whisky in Edinburgh?
Scotch Whisky Association
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the industry’s governing body, says that, “Scotland is home to over 130 malt and grain distilleries, making it the greatest concentration of whisky production in the world.”
The Scotch Whisky regions recognised by SWA are: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside.
Edinburgh distilleries (Lowland region)
Holyrood Distillery lies in the heart of Edinburgh and offers tours and the opportunity to buy the product.
- Visit: Holyrood Distillery Visitor Centre & Shop, 19 St Leonards Lane, Edinburgh, EH8 9SH
Glenkinchie Distillery, which opened in 1825 as Milton Distillery, lies in Pencaitland around 15 miles from Edinburgh. A range of tours and tastings are available and Glenkinchie’s single malt is available for you to buy.
- Visit: Glenkinchie Distillery, Tranent, Pencaitland, EH34 5ET
The Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience is a visitor attraction sited at the top of the Royal Mile, close to Edinburgh Castle.
Scotch Whisky Experience
Not only does it have a wide range of Scotch Whisky on sale, there’s a restaurant, organised whisky tastings, blending sessions and a number of other whisky ‘experiences’ including the Scotch Whisky Training School. For many the star of the show is the Diageo Claive Vidiz collection which has an impressive 3,384 bottles of Scotch Whisky.
- Visit: the Scotch Whisky Experience, 354 Castlehill, EH1 2NE
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a members only club founded in 1983. Their goal? “To share the world’s best whiskies, to bring them to life and to make you proud to belong to the world’s most colourful whisky club.” It’s not their mission statement but perhaps it should be.
As a member you can buy one of their unique cask collection special bottlings. Non-members are free to visit their Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar in Queen Street, central Edinburgh.
- Visit: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, The Vaults, 87 Giles Street, EH6 6BZ
Cadenhead’s Whisky shop
Cadenhead’s Whisky shop is Scotland’s oldest Independent bottler. It’s first shop opened in Aberdeen in 1842. They have an extensive and ever-changing range of limited releases – they only ever buy two or three casks of each – so when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
In addition, they carry a selection of other rare Scotch whiskies, often from unnamed distilleries. For whisky connoisseurs it’s a wonderful place, with knowledgeable staff, to explore.
- Visit Cadenhead’s: 172 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8BN
WoodWinters, a wines and spirits merchant, stocks a wide range of single malts, blends and grain whisky, many of them sourced from independent bottlers and distilleries. As bottlers themselves they always have some special editions on offer. For customers who like to ‘browse’ there are always around 30 single malts open for tasting.
- Visit: WoodWinters 91 Newington Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1QW
Royal Mile Whiskies
Although Royal Mile Whiskies have whisky and whiskey from around the world, they specialise in single malt Scotch. Along with some familiar names, there are occasional and much welcomed exclusive limited editions which they bottle themselves. Named retailer of the year numerous times by Whisky Magazine, their enthusiastic staff make the shop a pleasure to visit.
- Visit: Royal Mile Whiskies: 379 High Street, EH1 1PW
The Whiski Rooms
The Whiski Rooms is an Edinburgh restaurant and bar, complete with a huge selection of malts, there’s an adjoining whisky shop selling products from around the world. The range of Scotch includes single malts, blends and grain whisky. In addition, there are a number of limited edition Whiski bottlings to try. There are also daily tastings in the shop and other regular events.
- Visit: the Whiski Rooms: 4-7 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LP
Whisky and tobacco merchant Robert Graham was founded in Glasgow in 1874. While you’ll find – single malts, blends and grains and many of the familiar names the company also has its own range of award-winning bottlings.
- Visit: Robert Graham 194 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 4AZ
Jeffrey Street Whisky and Tobacco
Jeffrey Street, which opened in 2014, is a relatively new kid on the block. However, their expertise and passion about all things whisky is undeniable. Their speciality? One commentator described it as, “odd and obscure independent releases.” No better reason to pay them a visit. Well, perhaps their increasingly popular tasting sessions is another reason.
- Visit: Jeffrey Street Whisky and Tobacco: 12-14 Jeffrey St Edinburgh EH1 1DT
Of course while the smaller, often independent shops, are great places to explore, the bigger supermarkets always have a decent range of the better known-brands on their shelves.
Some ‘key facts’ about Scotch whisky
- Scotch Whisky – must be made in Scotland and matured in oak casks (many are ex-bourbon casks from the United States) for a minimum of three years.
- Age Statement – If the bottle shows an age statement, for example a Laphroaig 10 Year Old, it must be the youngest whisky in the mix.
- Single Malt Scotch whisky – is the product of a single distillery but will usually contain a combination of malts from the same distillery.
- Blended Malt Scotch Whisky – a combination of malt whiskies from more than one distillery.
- Blended Scotch Whisky – regulations stipulate that blended Scotch Whisky must contain a combination of one or more malt Scotch whiskies and one or more grain Scotch whiskies.
- Bottling – all bottling of Scotch Whisky must be done in Scotland by the distillery or an independent bottler.
- Cask strength – whisky bottled directly from the cask without dilution.
- Angel’s share – the amount of content evaporation that happens during maturation.