The Scotch Whisky Experience! On my trip to Edinburgh, I met up with a friend and we decided to do something whisky related and went for the full banana Taste of Scotland experience and meal, and what an experience it was! Before I get into the experience part, the SWE is right on the Royal Mile, very close to Edinburgh castle, but the entrance is rather subtle compared to many near by. There's a well stocked shop, bar and restaurant and no need to do the tour to enjoy these other facilities. The SWE is backed by distilleries but not just one particular group, so this is not a Diageo tour, or a Glenfiddich tour or anything like that. While it's financially backed by the industry, a lot of the content talks about Scotland and Scottish whisky generally. If you look at the tours on the website, there are several options. Essentially they have the same audio/visual experience and the main difference is the number of whiskies tasted during the tour. The AV section is such a differentiator for me. I don't have pictures, but even if I did they would not do it justice. Essentially you are moving through a series of rooms, each with a specific section of the production of whisky. You stand on a Scottish glen while the weather around you changes, one is a circular room which puts you inside a barrel to talk about maturation, another involves a moving sculpture of ping pong balls, which is utterly beautiful and mesmerising. There's a tasting room where the difference between single malts and blends is illustrated with what Disney fans would know as a 'Pepper's Ghost' effect; essentially a bottle is magically filled in front of you. In my - limited - experience going to distilleries, brand centres and the like, I have never seen anything that explains the production of whisky in such an immersive and enjoyable way. It talks generally about Scottish whisky and makes Scotland itself look so utterly beautiful. It's a great PR effort, and even the most basic tour would be suitable for anyone who has even the vaguest curiosity about whisky. I'd even suggest it for kids - but then my little one has already been doing distillery tours so... your mileage may vary. The only part that didn't thrill me was the historic bottle collection of some 3,300 bottles which Diageo bought and keep at the SWE. I will say though that this was probably more my lack of knowledge in the collection. There are many long, long defunct brands, and the obvious questions are which is the oldest, rarest, most expensive, etc... If defunct brands and vintage bottles are your thing, a tour with an extended visit would probably be fascinating. However, the rest of the experience, the guide, and the excellent Amber restaurant definitely make this a strong recommend from me. Even if you know all the info, it's hard not to be impressed by the experience and it makes it all very enjoyable.

Posted by Chris Ratcliff at 2023-12-11 22:20:41 UTC