When in Scotland, drink Scotch, right? Wrong. I only recommend drinking whiskey if you’ve ever wondered what gasoline tastes like. It doesn’t matter how old the whiskey is, where it was created, or what it is mixed with (if anything), it all tastes and smells awful.
We are not a family (dogs included) of whiskey drinkers. We rarely stray from vodka and when we do, we go for mojitos which are made with rum. Believing that we had not been properly educated about whiskey and that we had only tasted poor whiskey in the past, Peter and I decided to put our lives at risk and attend a Scotch
gasoline whiskey tour/tasting.
Upon arrival at the Scotch Whisky (it is spelled minus the “e”) Heritage Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland, we were presented with three different tour packages: silver, gold, and platinum. Silver was the basic package and included a single tasting of either a blended whiskey or single malt, the gold package included more information/tastings, and the platinum package included even more liquid shit to taste!
Given our belief that we had not tasted a proper whiskey in the past, we decided to go all out with the platinum package. In a weird twist of fate, the start time of the platinum tour was too late for our liking, so we decided to downgrade to the silver package which, thankfully, included only a single tasting.
The first half of the tour was informational and the second half was the whiskey tasting. At the end of the first half, our group was corralled into a small room with benches and tables. Each seat came equipped with a tasting glass and a white notecard with a circle printed on it. The circle was divided into quadrants and each quadrant was a different color, representing different regions in Scotland (note, there are actually five but our tour only focused on four). The card looked like this:
The pie chart was also scratch-and-sniff. We were instructed to scratch all four quadrants and note our favorite colored quadrant based on smell. After smelling the four quadrants, I looked at my card and it saw this:
I was a fan of none of the smells and wondered if it was too late to lie and say I was pregnant.
Etched into the wooden table were five circles; one circle for each of the four regions and a fifth circle which represented a blend of all four regions. The etched circles looked like this:
The next step in the “One of the Worst Liquids You Will Ever Taste in Your Life” experience was to place our tasting glasses on the desired colored circle or blended circle. What a genius way to communicate which type of whiskey our tour guide should pour into our tiny glasses. No translation needed! There was, however, one major defect to their design and that was that there was no way to opt-out. My recommended modification is below.
With all our glasses placed on our colored circles, our tour guide made her way around the room, pouring a single shot of our desired poison into our glasses. I had to rub my eyes to verify that I still had eyelashes as I was convinced that the strong whiskey smell burned them off as she poured the shot into my glass.
Glasses full, we walked to the tasting room. The room was breathtaking. It is one of the most beautiful rooms I have seen in my life. I was in complete awe and probably drooling. The room was shaped like a “U” and in it was displayed the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch whisky collection which is the largest collection of unopened Scotch whisky bottles (3,384 bottles) in the world (photo at the top of this post). We were surrounded by hundreds of bottles of unopened amber-colored whiskey which gave the room a glowing feel. It was amazing.
The oldest bottle in the collection is dated 1897 and the second oldest is dated 1904. Note that the 1904 bottle is not 100 percent full. A small percentage of whiskey evaporates from the bottles every year. I wondered what the point of keeping the bottle was when it would eventually all disappear.
We drank our whiskey (I took one sip and poured mine into the pitcher on the table) and then exited the tasting room and entered the bar area where, to my surprise, the whiskey collection continued. In the bar area is where all the unique bottles were on display.
My favorite was the chess set. Each chess piece is filled with a shot of whiskey.
Fun fact time!
- Scotch whisky is often referred to simply as “Scotch.”
- All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years.
- Scotch whisky is matured in ex-Sherry or ex-Kentucky bourbon casks.
- Any age statement on a bottle of Scotch whisky (in the case of blended whiskies) must represent the age of the youngest whiskey in the blend.
- Unlike wine, whiskey stops aging after it is bottled.
- The aging process that occurs in the cask results in minimal evaporation. Each year, 1.5-2 percent of the volume and alcohol evaporates from the cask. This is known as the “angel’s share.” The “devil’s share” is the portion lost if the cask is defective, causing it to leak or split or if the whiskey is siphoned from the cask.
- A person who makes casks is called a Cooper. It takes several years to become a certified Cooper.