Scotland is one of the world’s most prolific producers of alcohol running the gamut from high-end scotch whisky to beer and flavored gin. There is no shortage of places to learn about a variety of boozy Scottish creations and to drink yourself silly.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience is like an alcoholic Disneyland. It’s the hokiest alcohol-based experience money can buy, but it was also really fun. It’s right in front of Edinburgh Castle so you can imagine that it has tourist trap written all over it. At the Scotch Whisky Experience, you learn about the process of making scotch whisky and you have an opportunity to try a couple of different whiskies from different regions of Scotland. They have several tours available, but the most basic “Silver tour” begins with an actual barrel ride, narrated by the ghost of Master Blender.
Since this is not an actual distillery, all the information you get about the distilling process is via digital videos and the ride. I was so distracted by the novelty/hilarity of it that I retained very little information, but I did learn about the flavor profiles of different Scottish whiskies. More importantly, I learned that there’s smoky whisky from the Islay region of Scotland that tastes like mezcal.
Whiski Bar and Restaurant
This traditional Scottish Bar serves up over 270 types of whiskies, whisky cocktails, and a ton of different kinds of whisky flights. They also have amazing food, of which I recommend the haggis tower and the steak and ale pie. This is one of the best meals you can have in Edinburgh. Whiski Bar also features traditional Scottish bands every night after 10 pm, so you can really bask in the Scottishness of it all.
Pickering’s Gin Distillery
Although Edinburgh Gin Distillery is slightly better known, if for no other reason than the name, Pickering’s Gin has better reviews, probably due to the fact that it’s a more intimate experience. The tour begins at the Royal Dick Bar, where you get a gin and tonic to start you off. Then you’re off into the modest distillery, made up of two rooms, where you’re walked through the history of gin-making in Edinburgh and the process of gin production, including the artisanal methods used at Pickering’s.
At the end of tour, you’re treated to a tasting of three of their gins. Since we were extra fun, our guide gave us an extra taste of the gin liquor. It was the best time I’ve had at a tour of this kind ever. It felt less automated than you’d expect, and informative in a fun way. We couldn’t help but take home a bottle of their cask-aged gin from Islay. Honestly we’ve been drunk this entire trip.
The Standing Order
This watering hole is in a beautiful former bank building, hence the cheeky name. The Standing Order building has several intimate rooms with proper seating where you can get drinks or order a meal, including the room that has the bank’s former safe. The main hall of the bar is a fairly large open space with the original crown moldings, marble columns, and chandeliers. It’s worth visiting at least to take in the atmosphere. If you do grab a table, you can order anything you need to your table number using the Wetherspoon app, which can also be used across other eateries in Edinburgh. You can get Sunday brunch at the Standing Order until 11 pm, which is the way it should be.
The Dog House
Harry Potter is a big deal around here. For an alcoholic butterbeer that tastes exactly like you would expect, stop by The Dog House. It’s a quirky dive with some colorful charcters playing Connect Four and a massive menu of wings. There are a couple of ferrets at the bar, and dogs are welcome.
The Register Street block
Though Edinburgh has a lot of unassuming pubs all over the place, if you want to drink like royalty, you should head to the bars on Register St. This square is surrounded by classy Victorian bars that have interiors that put Stirling Castle to shame. Pull up a stool at The Guildford Arms, Voodoo Rooms or Cafe Royal Circle Bar. If that’s a bit too fancy for you, go drink with the rugby fans (kilts and all) on Rose Street.