Neil Braidwood finds that the former Castlehill Primary School houses a spectacular whisky experience aimed at novices and experts alike.
It’s a steep climb to the Scotch Whisky Experience – the next stop is Edinburgh Castle – but your efforts will be rewarded with a feast for the senses (especially the taste buds).
I booked myself on the silver tour (entry level) which lasts around an hour. We were welcomed by our guide Sam, who spoke at least three languages. Sam ushered us to the barrel ride, where we would begin our journey through the creation of whisky.
Similar to a rollercoaster ride, but not as fast, the barrels have a locking device to keep you secure while you are sedately trundled around an audio visual guide to the manufacture of whisky – ably presented by a ghostly hologram of the fictitious distiller, Douglas McIntyre, who flits in and out of sight to explain what is going on.
It is hugely entertaining, and I learned a lot, even though I thought I knew about Scotch!
The yeast bubbles and pops before your eyes, the peat fires appear to smell peaty, and the evaporation process (or angel’s share) is carefully explained.
The ride over, we disembark and are taken upstairs where we are introduced to the five different Scotch whisky regions – Lowland, Campbeltown, Islay, Speyside and Highland. We were presented with a scratch and sniff card – an ingenious way to explain the differences of the regions while a panoramic tour of Scotland plays out on the screen in front of us.
As a (lowland) Scot, I found myself welling up as I realised how proud I was sitting with tourists, some of whom had just come from the airport, who had never seen these stunning images of our country. Next, we were ushered into a replica Victorian sampling room, where ‘holodram’ bottles magically came to life to show the blending process.
We were offered a dram at this point, which we were encouraged to smell and then drink in the hallowed surroundings of the largest whisky collection in the world – a jaw- dropping array of more than 3,000 bottles collected by enthusiast Claive Vidiz over his lifetime.
The tour over, we were presented with a box to carry home our souvenir Glencairn whisky glass and encouraged to stay a little bit longer in one of the two whisky bars in the building.
For more details, visit www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk or call 0131 220 0441.