Here at Whisky Co, we reckon any place is a good place for whisky. But if we had to choose our favourite spots for a dram, it would go something like this:
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Edinburgh:
SMWS is a global whisky club, originating with The Vaults in Leith, Edinburgh in 1982. The Vaults is one of the oldest buildings in the city and boasts roaring fires to sip your dram by. The Vaults is for members only, but their central Edinburgh venue, 28 Queen Street is now open to everyone, which is fantastic news for whisky lovers.
SMWS bottle single cask, single malt whiskies from hundreds of distilleries in Scotland and around the world, including Japan and Ireland. The whisky is bottled at cask strength and you won’t find any colouring or chill filtration. There’s around 20 new releases each month, categorised into one of 12 Flavour Profiles. These whiskies only make it to bottle after rigorous sampling by the experts on the SMWS Tasting Panel. The bar staff know their stuff, so don’t be afraid to ask if you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of whisky on offer.
The Quaich Bar, Craigellachie Hotel, Speyside:
Right in the heart of Speyside sits the iconic Craigellachie Hotel. If you manage to make it through the wafts of delicious food from their restaurant, Copper Dog (they do a glorious Sunday roast) and up the stairs, you’ll find The Quaich Bar – Europe’s largest whisky bar, with over 400 whiskies on offer.
Each wall of the bar is covered, floor to ceiling, with every whisky you can imagine, including some very special drams. Sink into their leather sofas and order a Speyside, seeing as you’re there. Ask the clued up bar staff for their recommendations. It’s the perfect place for a nightcap, just steer clear of the £300 per dram Macallan at the end of the night. You won’t want to see that receipt in the morning…
The River Spey with Spirit of The Spey:
A day on the Spey with canoeist and River Spey expert, Dave Craig is definitely one to remember. We opted for an all day, tandem canoe ride in August, hoping for a sunny day on the river. Instead we woke to torrential rain and icy cold water. Scotland’s unpredictable weather is something Dave faces regularly, but it doesn’t dampen his spirit, nor did it ours as we stepped into our wetsuits and out on the river.
Starting around 9am at Advie, we cruised down the river until lunchtime. The River Spey is the fastest flowing river in the UK and a lifeline to Speyside’s whisky. Seeing Speyside from the river is truly unique and a great way to explore this beautiful part of Scotland. Two (hilarious but freezing) capsizes later, and we stopped for lunch at a fishing hut by Knockando. We continued down a notorious part of the river by Aberlour, known as the ‘Washing Machine’. A few of us capsized again (clearly canoeing isn’t my forte), but Dave kindly warmed us up with drams of The Balvenie at our final destination, Craigellachie Bridge. When you’re chilly, soaked and knackered, a whisky has never tasted so good, or so well deserved. A truly fantastic feeling.
An Islay beach, more specifically. With miles of beautiful sandy beaches and waves rolling in, there’s no better place to sip an Islay whisky than the island on which it was made. With the abundance of distilleries on the island, you’re not short of choice, but we’d suggest getting stuck into something peaty and enjoy it whilst the sun goes down on the beach.
We’ve had a memorable dram or two watching the sun go down, pairing the whisky with some freshly picked, local mussels cooked over a bonfire. If you’re lucky, you might catch a shooting star, or a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
I don’t think that there’s a better place to try a whisky than where it’s made. Nothing beats the anticipation felt on a whisky tour for a taste of the liquid you’re learning about. You’re about to experience the result of endless hours of hard work, patience and dedication. The whisky definitely tastes more special when you’re drinking it in the warehouse where it rested, or in a tasting room alongside the people who’ve made it.
One of my favourite distillery tasting experiences is Aberfeldy. Through a dramatic oak stave tunnel and walls lined with old advertisements, you’ll find yourself in their tasting area. Glass blown droplets hang from the ceilings and an archive wall reminds you of the legacy of this whisky.
You can also taste the whisky in the warehouse which I find is always a truly special moment. Amongst the resting casks and the cool air of the warehouse, I tried their delicious, malty 12 Year Old and the 16 year old, which had a perfect balance of sweetness and spice. If you’re unlucky enough to be designated driver, they’ll even send you home with a whisky cocktail kit to make sure you don’t miss out.
Thankfully, Whisky Co. is here to organise your trip so you don’t have to worry about driving, or missing out on a special distillery tasting. Let us take care of your whisky experience for you.
Just drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org and get dramming!