OK. Probably the first thing I have to explain is what in the world I was doing in Scotland such a very short time after my three week vacation in Greece. My daughter decided to complete the last semester of her college education at the University of Edinburgh, the choice of location largely being dependent on where she could take the very few classes she needed and get credit for them. So less than one month after returning from Greece my husband and I accompanied our delightful daughter to Edinburgh, Scotland, where she will spend the time from September to Christmas.
So why the crazy title of the blogpost. Well, drinking is a huge party of Scottish culture, and you'd best know what you are doing when you get to the bar, because there is a lot to wrap your head around, and the choices are mindboggling.
|A delicious flight of |
single malt whisky
OK. The single malts come from a single region of which there are six: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown, Islands and Islay. Each region brags its own influence over the type of whisky it produces and these differences are very noticeable. The Speyside region, though comparatively small when compared to the larger lowlands and highlands, has by far the most extensive whisky production. Its single malts are fruit and spice forward. Highland single malts on the other hand are noted with heather and honey. The Islay are extremely peat forward, due to the peat that is used to fuel the fermentation process. This makes Islay whisky taste like drinking a campfire. Dang. I tried it a second time just to see if I could get through it. After the second time I said no more. Though the Islay region is really just a speck on the map, there are nine distilleries there.
|Tasting in the Collection Room|
I recommend it, but bring your ID! Scotland is strict. My 21 year old daughter was with us and forgot her ID and they would not let her drink. That was a big bummer.
Anyway, given our new knowledge we ran a nightly ritual of getting a whisky or even a whisky flight in a variety of pubs/bars. Most had a great selection and making a choice always proved to be a challenge. Scotch Whisky is sipped while you relax, much in the same way one might enjoy a cigar. Anyway, before I left Scotland I ordered a 4 pack of Glencairn glasses from Amazon which were waiting for me when I returned. Costco has a good selection of single malts at reasonable prices. We looked at duty free in the airport but that was good stuff and it was expensive.
|A flight of Single Malt Whiskys |
served in Glencairn glasses with tasting notes
My first Gin and Tonic was in the Heathrow airport duty free shop in 2019 and since then I am hooked! I guess I always thought that gin was a English thing-something about being called "London Dry," but in fact, the per capita consumption of gin is higher in Edinburgh than in any other city in the UK.
Gin is just vodka with juniper flavoring, but with that juniper flavoring, believe me it tastes totally different.
In Scotland, you can really get whatever kind of gin you want in your G and T. You just order it. The gin comes in a glass of ice and your bottled tonic comes on the side for you to govern the strength of your libation. Nice touch. Anyhow, the most visible gin in Edinburgh is none other than ... Edinburgh Gin, or simply EG. It's everywhere. You can visit their showroom on the west side of the castle. Their basic gin experience is 25 pounds. Anyway, we chose "the other guy" for a distillery tour, maybe cuz it was listed first in Rick Steves book, but we passed by their retail shop on Hanover street and decided to take a peek inside. We were floored by the variety of gin in there! Classic London Dry, a navy strength label, a seaside label, plus oodles of flavor combos (Rhubarb and Ginger/Lemon and Jasmine/Orange Blossom and Basil), and Gin Liquors (Mulled Wine/Plum/Raspberry/Orange Blossom). The best part, the darling girl in there let us try whatever we wanted, so we really got a great overview of what they make. And it paid off too, cuz the next day we went back and bought three different gins, two flavored and a liquor. So so hard to make a decision!
The other distillery in town is Pickering's Gin, which is located about a 20 minute walk south of the Royal Mile in what used to be an Old Veterinary School. Their Gin Jolly experience takes about one hour and costs 25 pounds which includes a welcome gin and tonic, a tour and 4 tastings. It was good but not great. This tour had 15 people and a very goofy guide who just seemed like he was trying too hard to be funny. The tour was interesting and informative and could have stood on its own without the corny humor. We had to stand the entire tour-that got tiring. Before we got to taste a lot of time was wasted as each person dipped their souvenir bottle into red wax while the samples were poured into plastic cups. They had less gin variety as they are much newer and a smaller operation, so we basically tried all they had to offer, and it was good--but no cool flavors or liquors. You can buy their gin at the distillery. I did not see it in the grocery or at duty free. We didn't buy any. I would try the Edinburgh Gin experience.
Anyway, I looked up what is the difference between Indian Tonic and Mediterranean Tonic. Indian Tonic has more quinine in it and thereby is better mixer for your classic London Dry gin. Mediterranean Tonic is lighter and is to be mixed with flavored gin and gin heavier in botanicals. Get it? Now ya know.
Beer is also heavily consumed in Scotland. There are Scottish breweries, mostly craft breweries, so when we drank beer we tried to drink Scottish beer.
OK that's that! Thank you for reading my post! I will try to get something else written about our week in Scotland. Here are some more pictures!