The Out About Scotland complete guide to The Scotch Whisky Experience
Category: Exhibition, Themed rides, Whisky
Suitable for ages: 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About The Scotch Whisky Experience
If you’re embarking on a visit to Edinburgh then your trip won’t be complete without a visit to The Scotch Whisky Experience, located just a short walk from Edinburgh Castle Esplanade on the Royal Mile.
This attraction is comprised of several tours and whisky tasting sessions along with a very enjoyable journey through the history of one of Scotland’s most famous exports, brought to you by one of their very own resident ghostly tour guides!
Whisky is as Scottish as a tartan-wrapped haggis and the history of the spirit is just as interesting as any tour around the nearby castle, and even if you’re not a fan of the stuff (apparently some people aren’t) I guarantee you’ll enjoy a visit to this attraction.
The highlight of the attraction has to be being taken through the history of whisky – from it’s humble origins in the 15th-century to the massive distilleries of today – by one of the resident experts who’ll be only too glad to impart their expertise during a tasting session.
There are several tours to choose from and they’re all enjoyable with each one offering a slightly different experience lasting from around one hour to three hours, but if you just want an introduction I recommend the silver tour which takes you through the main exhibits and finishes with a tasting session in the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky.
The Scotch Whisky Experience has done a good job of making the attraction accessible for all ages (kids can sample Irn-Bru instead of whisky) but it’s the adult’s who’ll get the most out of a visit especially if they take part in the tasting sessions.
As it’s so close to Edinburgh Castle it gets very busy during the peak tourist season but I think you’ll enjoy it whatever time of year you visit.
The only thing I’d suggest is that you give it a miss if you don’t actually like whisky. When I recently visited half the tourists in my group admitted they hated the taste of whisky when they were offered a sample. Bit of a strange choice of attractions to choose to visit then…
Things to do at The Scotch Whisky Experience
Tours range from an informal hour-long introductory session to a three-hour experience that includes Scottish cuisine in the on-site restaurant, but all include a whisky barrel ride through the production of Scotch whisky and a viewing of the world’s largest whisky collection.
During the ride you sit inside a barrel-shaped carriage that transports you back in time on a journey through a replica distillery, and as you move through each section stories about whisky are told by the ghosts of the people who used to work there. It’s good fun and will probably be the highlight for children, but adults have a lot more to enjoy on the tour.
At the end of the ride you’re directed out to meet your very-much-alive guide for a tasting session, during which you’re told about the history of whisky production from its very first beginnings to the multi-billion pound industry that it’s become today.
But the high point of any of the tours has to be viewing the whisky collection which has the record of being the worlds largest, housing an incredible 3384 bottles.
The entire collection took over 35 years to build up, and walking around the collection is truly mesmerizing and you’ll hardly believe so many different types of whisky were ever created. At this point you’ll also be able to sample a dram of the golden liquid which is the perfect end to a fascinating voyage of whisky discovery.
In addition to the barrel ride there’s a really good restaurant where you can sample some of Scotland’s finest cuisine (haggis included, of course), a whisky bar where you can sample a vast range of spirits from all over Scotland, and an extremely well-stocked shop which sells just about every variety of whisky imaginable.
If you love a good dram then a visit to this attraction will be right up your street and even though the tickets are a little on the pricey side I think they’re worth it, especially considering you get a whisky sample and a tasting glass to take home.
The history of The Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience is housed in one of the many beautiful buildings that line the Royal Mile, each of which has its own fascinating history. This one was formerly the premises of the Castlehill School which opened in 1888 and taught a mixture of boys and girls.
The children were segregated by a number of separate stairways which can still be seen as you walk around the attraction today. The school eventually closed in 1951 and the building had various uses until it became The Scotch Whisky Experience in 1988.
What I liked about this attraction
- The ride in the whisky barrel is great fun
- The whisky tasting sessions are very informative
- The staff are very knowledgeable
My top tips
- The whisky selection in the shop is fantastic – one of the best in Edinburgh in fact – but you can find cheaper prices from most of the whisky shops on the Royal Mile
- To my mind you’ll never find a better quality whisky than what the Scotch Malt Whisky Society sell. If you want to try the best I seriously recommend you get a membership. Become a member for exclusive access to the world’s biggest selection of single cask whisky
Address and map
The Scotch Whisky Experience can be found at the upper end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, just a few yards down from the entrance to the castle.
Prices and opening times
Prices – The Scotch Whisky Experience has a range of tour experiences with various times and prices as listed below (as of 2019):
The Gold Tour: ‘After enjoying a full silver tour, you’ll compare and contrast four regional single malts whilst relaxing in our beautiful McIntyre Gallery’. Duration: 70 – 90 minutes. Standard price: From £28.00
Morning Masterclass: ‘If you have an existing love of whisky, our Morning Masterclass is the perfect opportunity to further develop your skills.’ Duration: 90 minutes. Standard price: £40.00
The Platinum Tour: ‘Booking is recommended for our luxurious evening tour, which includes a comparative whisky tasting, and an extended collection viewing.’ Duration: 90 minutes. Standard price: £39.00
The Taste of Scotland: ‘This ultimate experience combines our Platinum tour with a sumptuous seasonal Scottish tasting menu in our award-winning Amber restaurant.’ Duration: Approx 3 hours. Standard price: £75.00
The Silver Tour: ‘Become a ‘one-hour-whisky-expert’ as our guides impart their expertise, culminating in a tasting in our stunning whisky collection.’ Duration: 50 minutes. Standard price: From £16.00
Educational Tours: ‘Find out all about our business and how it has developed and diversified over the years. Official student groups of 20+ only.’ Duration: 50 minutes. Standard price: £14.00
- Jan – March: 10am – 5pm
- April – May: 10am – 6pm
- June: 10am – 7.30pm
- July: 10am – 8.20pm
- August: Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm
- August: Saturday & Sunday 10am – 5:40pm
- Sept – Dec: 10am – 5pm
Getting there: Bus stop nearby, Train station nearby
Getting around: Disabled access, Easy-access paths, Pushchair access, Stairs
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Hot drinks, Restaurant or cafe, Snacks, Toilets
- Telephone: 0131 2200441
- Website: The Scotch Whisky Experience
If you liked this guide check out The Out About Scotland Guide to Scotch Whisky.
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