First launched in 2009 as part of the Homecoming programme, Whisky Month now takes place every May in Scotland. It makes complete sense to routinely celebrate the national drink for which Scotland prides itself so much on, especially in the capital city! There is always lots going on around Edinburgh in May for fans of a good ‘scotch’, but we like to think its best enjoyed all year round, so we have uncovered our favourite places in Edinburgh to sample a dram or two…
Halfway up The Mound (and just five minutes’ walk from Old Town Chambers), the Whiski Rooms is a relaxed and cosy bar and restaurant which welcomes you in for a break from walking up and down the hilly streets on Edinburgh. The short climbs are worth it though, as Whiski rooms offers a brilliant selection of all things Scottish including a varied, 300+ strong, whisky collection. Customers are encouraged to try before they buy – try a dram or two in the bar before heading next door to their shop to purchase your favourite to take home with you! The menu in the restaurant boasts some strong Scottish favourites, made for pairing with a fiery or smoky whisky or two. From Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, to the traditional Cranachan dessert, Whiski Rooms is a great place for visitors and locals alike to try the national drink accompanied by some delicious hearty fayre. Our top tip? Try and get a window table to enjoy the views over the city! Also watch out for regular distiller events and whisky tastings taking place at Whiski Rooms – a great chance to sample some different whiskies, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro.
The Devil’s Advocate
Another venue from the knowledgeable team behind the popular Bon Vivant, The Devil’s Advocate can’t be missed from any list of best whisky bars in the city. Offering a vibrant, upbeat vibe, the bar occupies an old Victorian pump station in the heart of the magical old town. The imaginative space is beautifully fitted out, suitably paying homage to its industrial past with lots of bare brick, beams and exposed wood. This bar is popular with tourists and locals alike and can get be bustling of an evening. The bar, in addition to an impressive array of creative cocktails, also boasts over 100 whiskies to choose from all around the globe. But don’t worry; staff are on hand to help any newbies select something suitable for their tastes. The well-edited food menu is a contemporary take on some Scottish classics, all perfect pairings for your dram. The best bit is your Old Town Chambers apartment is literally just across the close! A good excuse for a few more?
Amber Restaurant and Whisky Bar @ The Scottish Whisky Experience
With over 450 whiskies for sale and representing 96% of the brand names in the industry, it’s safe to say this is the home of the golden nectar in the old town. For those looking to deepen their whisky knowledge on a visit to the city, a guided tour of The Scottish Whisky Experience is the perfect place to start. But why not extend your visit to include a delicious meal created from the best local produce and a celebratory dram at their critically acclaimed restaurant too? All the staff here are highly trained to be able to help drinkers find the perfect tipple for them and not only will you come away with a warming feeling in your stomach, but also a refreshing new knowledge of the national drink to impress your friends! If you aren’t sure what to try here, their curated selection of ‘Whiskies of the Month’ is a great place to start and often includes rare or limited bottlings as well as new releases. The restaurant space itself is bright and airy and just a hop, skip and a jump from Edinburgh Castle!
The Black Cat
Having previously been voted as a ‘Scottish New Bar of the Year’ finalist by Dram Magazine, it’s safe to say The Black Cat easily makes it onto any whisky bar round up in Edinburgh. This intimate and rustic pub is youthful in its vibe and has a vibrant and varied clientele. The bar has a fantastic hand-picked selection of over 100 of the country’s finest whiskies, as well as rotating local beers and live folk music most days. Slightly tucked away from the busy Princes and George Streets, The Black Cat still enjoys a prominent position in the city’s New Town, just a five minute walk from The Edinburgh Grand. The relaxed vibe of the pub makes it perfect for a chilled out drink without any fuss or pomp. If you find yourself in the city during the festival in August, The Black Cat is open until 3am every night, perfect for a whisky nightcap before bed! Although the bar may be intimate compared to many of its Rose Street compatriots, it has a loyal following and can get quite busy – all the more reason to get down early! We also love The Black Cat for trying out some of the more obscure and intriguing whiskies that you might not find on the busy bars lining the Royal Mile.
The Bow Bar
Voted the 2017/18 Pub of the Year Scotland at the AA Hospitality awards, The Bow Bar is a classic welcoming Scottish free house bursting with old town charm and character. The Bow Bar boasts over 300 whiskies on display behind the bar and its central location on the historic and the oft-Instagrammed curving West Bow/Victoria Street makes it a popular stop for those hunting a good dram of whisky. This quaint and intimate pub remains quite traditional but that is half its attraction. Take shelter from the bustling Royal Mile and Grassmarket for a breather and a suitably satisfying tipple. Don’t expect overt style and fanfare in this establishment; the pub is quite simply furnished with classic pub memorabilia adorning walls, giving it a relaxed and comfortable vibe. Watch out for the pipette on the bar here – locals won’t hesitate to know it’s use, but for those new to the area, it offers, in the opinions of the bar staff here, the perfect amount of water to add to your dram of single malt so as to enjoy it to the fullest extent.
Cannonball Restaurant & Bar
With stunning views of the castle and the Royal Mile and award-winning food, Cannonball Restaurant is a truly special dining venue, but it’s the well-rounded whisky bar that we love the most! Open 11am until late, the Cannonball Bar boasts over 120 malt whiskies (plus some pretty impressive bar snacks to go alongside them too!). The name for the bar and restaurant comes from the gunshot lodged high on the exterior wall facing the castle. Rumour has it that it was fired by Government troops towards Holyrood Palace whilst Bonnie Prince Charlie was in residence, although this story is hotly debated. Despite this, the building itself is piece of history and the bar décor is a suitable blend of contemporary style with traditional, rustic Scottish influences. The Carini’s who own the establishment, have partnered with another long-standing family business, Ian Macleod Distillers, owners of Glengoyne Highland and Tamdhu Speyside Single Malt Whiskies. Expect the full collection plus limited edition bottlings of these highland malts plus check out the appropriately named Glengoyne Room, a flexible private dining space perfect for whisky tastings or functions.