We had a chance to make a short visit to Edinburgh this past week, and were thoroughly impressed.  The Scottish capital is a must-visit for the whisky enthusiast, and for admirers of Scottish history and culture in general.  While Edinburgh contains the Scotch Whisky Experience (a visitors center and shop originally created in the late 1980’s by a consortium of whisky companies), it also contains the largest selection of quality whisky bars we have ever witnessed. While we recently covered the whisky scene in Paris, Edinburgh is far superior in terms of variety, availability, and price. In fact, even the modern bars with fancy cocktails and ludicrous prices contained a decent selection of single malts.  However, for real selection and value, one should hit up one of the many quality whisky bars in the city.  Rather than duplicate, I refer the reader to Edinburgh Whisky Blog’s map of whisky bars in the city.  I’ll merely mention that we thoroughly enjoyed both the Albanach and the Abbotsford.

Our trip began with a Ryanair flight, and with 2 for 1 whisky, we couldn’t resist.  It arrived, to our surprise, in bags rather than mini-bottles.  Think of ketchup packets at a fast food restaurant, fill them with whisky, and you have the idea.  On the Royal Mile (Edinburgh’s primary tourist strip), we encountered numerous shops and bars, with incredible selections and prices relative to our experiences in Canada.  We also visited the Scotch Whisky Experience, taking their tour.  While a bit disappointed at the tour’s focus at those who know nothing about whisky, we enjoyed the interactions with fellow tour-takers.  All in all, a very nice trip.  We’ll have more details about specific elements later as we find time to write up our notes.  The photos from our visit give a much better picture (excuse the pun) of our experience than words, so I’ll defer details to the photos.

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Demijohn is a unique shop that lets you fill bottles from casks, including a Linkwood distilled in 1996 and a Caol Ila from 2000.  You can purchase a variety of empty bottles in the shop, or bring your own.
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Not only does Demijohn allow you to fill bottles of single-cask whisky, but also a range of liquors, including vodka, rum, and herbal liqueurs.
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Set on the Royal Mile, Oddbins is one of many whisky shops in Edinburgh with literally hundreds of whiskies.  When we were there they had a few very good values.
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Royal Mile Whiskies is one of the best shops in Edinburgh, containing plenty of rare and unique bottlings. While we were there, a man came in and bought every available Port Ellen they had, at a cost of nearly a thousand pounds.
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From the owners of Royal Mile Whiskies (and just a few shops down), The Cigar Box contains a large selection of Cuban (and Davidoff) cigars, many of which have early-2000’s box dates.  The staff was incredibly knowledgeable, and a great joy to chat with.
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The cozy whisky snug at the Hotel Du Vin. Right outside was a nice cigar shack (the hotel offers a small selection of cigars for sale).  More on this in future posts.
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Set on Rose Street, the Robert Graham Cigar and Whisky store is definitely worth checking out. That said, their humidor was badly underhumidified (40%) when we visited.
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Split boxes, underhumidification, etc., Robert Graham’s humidor could use a little work.  These UK Regional Edition Habanos (Punch) were from a mixed box, and you can clearly see the color differential.
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Cadenhead’s — one of Edinburgh’s many independent bottlers and whisky shops.
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Robert Graham Treasurer. Yet another cigar and whisky shop owned by the Robert Graham Group. I’m in heaven.  Cigars here were in much better shape than at their shop on Rose Street.
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Inside of the Abbotsford, a very traditional Scottish pub with a nice whisky selection. According to the bartender, “I’d be surprised if you found one costing over a few bucks.”  We tried over a half-dozen whiskies, and our bill came in under 20 pounds.
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We decided to head to the whisky bar downstairs in the Scotch Whisky Experience, and these were the drams we had.  The bartender was extremely knowledgeable, particularly relative to the tour guides.  A great place to go to chat with other whisky enthusiasts.
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Part of the Scotch Whisky Experience’s huge selection of whiskies.
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The Scotch Whisky Experience includes a tasting section. Each of these bottles contains essences with smells reminiscent of each region (peaty for Islay, floral for Highlands, etc.)
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Part of the Scotch Whisky Experience tour. There were many “fake” exhibits to demonstrate the process. Rather disappointing for those who already know even a little about the whisky-making process.
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In the Scotch Whisky Experience shop. I’ve never seen so many mini-bottles of Highland Park!
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The Scotch Whisky Experience shop has more Famous Grouse than I’ve ever seen together in one place
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Whisky in a bag? Welcome to Ryanair…

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