I can hear it already…
“Did you have any Scotch while you were in Scotland?”
The answer: yes. The problem? I’d never successfully drank scotch before. Apply whatever You’re Doing it Wrong Internet meme you like, I’ll own up to it: I suck at drinking scotch.
Time to put an end to that.
There are actually quite a few options for scotch tasting in Edinburgh, but most of those are for people who actually know a thing or two. As of 2013, all I knew about scotch was that it burns. A lot. Fortunately, there is a place for that kind of aficionado, the Scotch Whisky Experience.
It starts out with an introductory barrel ride to teach you about what scotch is, how it’s made, and what makes it so desirable (they used the word great but the jury’s still out on that). The friends with us on this trip compared it to an alcoholic’s It’s a Small World. I found it more similar to the Mr. DNA ride.
After our thrilling yet educational barrel ride, we went to another room where we learned about the differences between the scotches that come from the four regions of Scotland. They gave us a little scratch-n-sniff card that had examples of what to smell for in the different types… bananas, vanilla, smoke. Based on that, we were to pick what kind of scotch we wanted to try.
I chose a scotch from the Islay region (pronounced eyelah; the smoke smell is from burning peat) based on the card. The banana smelled like pineapple and the other stuff was similarly off, but the smoke smelled like campfire and I figured that one at least got closer to what it was supposed to be. This resulted in a small helping of Ardbeg 10.
They explained how to actually enjoy drinking scotch as well. Smell it, just so. Swirl it, just so. Look at it, just so. Then take a sip, and chew it. Let it linger for a while before swallowing it.
I did this, and I didn’t cough or gag or make a liquor face. And furthermore, it actually tasted good.
We got to see the world’s largest collection of scotch, where no bottle has ever been opened. Some bottles were nearly empty; most were missing at least a little bit. Apparently, if the bottle is not perfectly sealed, some of the alcohol will evaporate over time, leaving behind a cloudy, concentrated liquid.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is also home to the world’s largest bottle of scotch.
After our tour, we went to the bar and sampled four more glasses of scotch, this time one from each region. It gave me a chance to confirm my suspicions that I do prefer Islay scotch.
Sure enough, the Bowmore 12 (another Islay) was my favorite by a hundred miles. However, they were all 10- or 12-year aged whiskys, so curiosity got the better of me and I ordered a Laphroaig 18 (la-froig) that smelled like my grandfather’s pipes.
It was wonderful.
Tiff took one smell and made a face. Apparently, drinking liquid smoke is not for everybody.
I didn’t think I’d like it, but it was a lot of fun. Best of all, now I don’t have to look like a complete idiot if I want to share a glass of scotch with somebody.