Scotch Whisky Experience – tradition and innovation

The Scotch Whisky Experience, the attraction tucked into Castlehill next to the Witchery and opposite the Camera Obscura, turns 30 this year. I worked there as a tour guide back in my student days. When I was invited to take a tour and have a cheese and whisky pairing, I said an enthusiastic yes.

Cheese and whisky pairing: look at those bottles! This will be exciting.

Cheese and whisky pairing: look at those bottles! This will be exciting.

Learning about whisky

The Scotch Whisky Experience tour is in three parts. First, a barrel ride giuded by a ghost tells you how whisky is made. Then a film and a tour guide tells you about the different whisky regions. Finally, you taste a whisky surrounded by a collection of hundreds of bottles.

Surrounded by a wall of gold.

Surrounded by a wall of gold.

You exit into the bar and, depending on the package you have, there may now be more tastings, or you’re at your own devices. You can go to the shop and look a the many interesting bottles there, or you may stay in the bar for a little while.

I headed down to the bar and restaurant in the cellar, Amber, where I had a date with a cheese platter.

The tour ends with a whisky tasting: I, true to form, chose an islay malt.

The tour ends with a whisky tasting: I, true to form, chose an Islay malt. Bowmore mixes smoky and sweet to great effect.

Cheese board and whisky pairing

Cheese, plenty of bread and oat cakes, chutney and salad. I left nothing but the chutney.

Cheese, plenty of bread and oat cakes, chutney and salad. I left nothing on that board.

We all know about cheese and red wine, cheese and port. I’ve written about cheese and white wine in the past. I went for a cheese and whisky pairing. It was rather glorious. This is what I had:

  • Royal Lochnagar cheddar paired with Auchentoshan Three Wood. A firm mature Cheddar is well-matched by this tripple distilled whisky matured in three different casks. The result is mellow and soft, light and slightly sweet. I’m often a Cheddar detractor (there are other cheeses, you know) but this one is lovely. Slightly sharp and delightfully slow to dissolve on the tounge.
  • Applewood smoked cheddar from the Mull of Kintyre paired with Glenmorangie Signet. Butter-soft cheese with a mild smokey flavour is intriguing paired with this special edition from Glenmorangie. It uses chocolate malt – malt that’s been dried and heated until more of the starch has caramelised, adding a rich, caramel note to the final product. It still has Glenmorangies signature citrus notes which is probably why some people get chocolate orange on the nose. The smokey cheese and rich whisky were lovely together.
  • Clava Scottish brie-style cheese paired with GlenGrant 12 year-old. I love Clava and was very excited about seeing it on the cheese board. It was matched with GlenGrant 12 year old, a fresh, light, fruity whisky that let the delicate cheese come through. (I took a little water with it to ensure room for the cheese – didn’t want to lose the flavour.)
  • Dunsyre blue paired with Bowmore 18 year-old. If there’s a cheese that can deal with an Isla malt, it’s Dunsyre blue. The salty, sharp blue cheese stood up well against the smoky, slightly sweet whisky. This is my favourite pairing (maybe because this is one of my favourite whiskies.)

Before I left, I got a bonus dram, the Experience’s very own 30 year-old blend. It’s an interesting blend which I would have enjoyed even more if I hadn’t just had a Bowmore. Only more Isla can stand up to that Isla. That said, it was a privilege and a pleasure to try the 30-year blend.

The Experience's 30th anniversary blend. What a treat!

The Experience’s 30th anniversary blend. What a treat!

Scotch Whisky Experience and Amber Bar & Restaurant

The Royal Mile
354 Castlehill
Edinburgh EH1 2NE

Caroline was invited to visit by the Scotch Whisky Experience.

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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