Scotland 2016: Day 3 - Local Culture
Edinburgh is an absolutely amazing city and, coincidentally enough, it shares many similarities to my home of San Francisco. It's small enough to explore entirely by foot, there are numerous vistas and vantage points, the hills provide incredible photo opportunities, and the nearby waterfront eventually opens out into the sea. However, because there's little business for us to do in Edinburgh, we rarely spend much time there. After finishing up a few morning appointments, however, Jeff Jones and I found ourselves with a few hours to kill. Luckily for me, Jeff likes to walk as much as I do. We didn't waste any time.
Jeff being the history buff that he is, I wanted him to see Edinburgh Castle. High atop Castle Rock overlooking the city below sits one of the most-sieged fortresses in history. The battles this structure has seen over the centuries are well-documented and visiting the facility's jail is an absolute must. There's an audio track they play in the barracks that assumes what the prisoners might have said to one another while in captivity. "Can you please stop snoring?!" one of the voices screams out in a thick Scottish accent. I about died. There's a lot to do here.
Don't think the Scotch whisky industry isn't aware that they're lacking a single malt distillery in Edinburgh. It's exactly because of all that potential tourism that the major players have chipped in to create the Scotch Whisky Experience, a museum as well as an educational tutorial that helps give visitors to the capital a true hands-on involvement with the spirit.
This being our first time to the Experience, we had a date set up in advance with head manager Lenka Whyles, one of the most down-to-earth and interesting ambassadors for the industry I've ever met. She's all about the enjoyment of whisky with none of the pretense. One thing that always interests me about Scotland is the vast preference for blended whisky over single malts. I asked her explicitly which one she drank more of. "Blends," she said with a nod, "No doubt about it." While the Experience does spend some time covering the production of Scotch whisky, they spend far more time and energy discussing the skill and the strategy behind blending. Meanwhile, we Americans obsess over purity. Shows you how much we know! One of my favorite parts of the Experience was the display room for Brazilian whisky aficionado Claive Vidiz's vast 20,000+ bottle collection. We got our own private tour which allowed for plenty of time to explore the selections. I would highly recommend stopping by if you're in Edinburgh. We had a truly terrific time there.
If you walk directly out of the castle and down the Royal Mile right nearby the Whisky Experience, you'll find a plethora of great whisky shops. You'll also find plenty of inspiration. There may not be a distillery in Edinburgh to visit (North British is closed to the public), but there's a lot of whisky culture to bask in. We were very thirsty by the time we made it back to the hotel. We needed a quick dram of the 1980 Glenlochy fino sherry cask sample I smuggled out of Signatory.