Here in Scotland, whisky is considered an essential part of our culture and life. So much so that its Gaelic name Uisge-Beatha literally translates as ‘water of life.’
While Ireland also claims to have invented whiskey (Irish term), we have a soft spot for Scottish whisky. And our earliest form of whisky dates back to liquor distillation in 800 AD. It’s believed that these early methods eventually evolved to create today’s version of whisky.
We don’t know the exact date that this liquor distillation process officially became known as whisky. But, one of the earliest records of whisky in Scotland dates back to the 15th-century text Exchequer Rolls.
Since then, over 120 distilleries have sprung up across the country. And, sampling a dram or two is an essential part of visiting Scotland and discovering what makes us tick. After you a few drams, you may find that you’re a true blue-blooded Scot too.
To legally be called Scotch whisky, the liquor must be made in Scotland and follow a specific distillation process. The whisky distilling process uses only water and malted barley to create alcohol under 94.8%. The spirit is then left to mature for three years in oak barrels, before being bottled at an alcohol level below 40%.
Scotch can either be single or blended malt varieties. Single malt is made at one distillery with one type of grain while blended scotch is a mixture of different malts from different distilleries.
Most whisky connoisseurs consider single malts as the cream of the crop and believe that the longer the whisky matures, the better it tastes.
Whisky distilleries are commonly in the Highlands, Scottish Isles and Speyside. However, if you’re short on time and are only visiting Edinburgh, there are still a few places nearby where you can try our famous spirit.
Located at the top of the Royal Mile, near Edinburgh Castle, you won’t need to leave the city to discover some of the country’s best whiskies. The Scotch Whisky Experience represents 90% of Scotland’s whisky industry, so you can learn more about our national drink, visit the World’s Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky including 3,384 different bottles and of course sample a dram or two.
As Edinburgh’s closest distillery, Glenkinchie is only a forty-minute drive (15 miles) from the city centre. Glenkinchie produces a lowland smooth single malt. The Glenkinchie 12 Year Old was named the Best Lowland Single Malt at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards.
You can tour the facilities and learn about how they create their award-winning batches, sample whiskies from Glenkinchie portfolio and buy a bottle or two to bring home.
To get here, you can rent a car and make the short drive or, if you don’t want to drive, take the Glenkinchie shuttle. It runs twice a day (10 am and 1.30pm) seven days a week from Edinburgh city centre.
After Glenkinchie, Tullibardine is the second closest distillery from Edinburgh as it’s only an hour (50 miles) away by car from the city centre.
Tullibardine has been producing single malt whisky since 1949, so is a relatively modern distillery. Today, the distillery produces several types of single malt whisky including aged oak edition single malt whisky, sherry finish malt whisky and other related liqueurs.
To get here, you can hire a car and make the short drive. Hiring a car also gives you the option of exploring the surrounding area of Perthshire. Or, you can take the train to Auchterarder and then a taxi to the distillery.
If you plan to drive to any of these distilleries, please be aware that Scotland has a very low threshold for drinking and driving. So, you won’t be able to sample any of our local whisky should you decide to drive.
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Written by Karen
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