Holyrood Distillery is already creating gin and will be up and running distilling whisky this summer. Meanwhile, there’s a shop which sits in the middle of an area rich in brewing and distilling history. Want to know more? We did so went on a walking tour with Kask Whisky.
I first met Justine Hazlehurst of Kask Whisky over bourbon in 99 Hanover Street a few years back. She is very knowledgeable and an excellent guide to whisky new and old. In partnership with Holyrood Distillery, Justine’s running whisky walking tours and tastings this summer. Christopher and I came along to a practice walk in May.
Walking and talking
We met at the Holyrood Distillery shop where pretty bottles of gin glittered temptingly. But we weren’t there for gin (we’ll go back to taste them though – I’m very interested in the spiced one) but for whisky and a history lesson.
St Leonard and the Meadows holds a wealth of brewing and distilling history. The southside was once veritably covered in breweries: there was a lot of good water in the area. The walk, which takes about an hour, takes us past a number of points where Edinburgh’s brewing history waves at the present. You could say it’s a walk from wellhead to wellhead, skirting a loch, passing what’s left of breweries and distilleries and visiting a grave.
I found it utterly fascinating.
I’ve lived in Edinburgh for over two decades and have walked through, over and past some of these sights endless times without knowing what I was passing. I learned a lot. I don’t want to tell you all of it because I want you to go on the tour. Let’s just say, I knew about the Norloch but I didn’t know about the Boroughloch.
The tour has a good balance between walking and talking. Justine is informative and entertaining and looked after our band of bloggers, PR professionals, photographers and distillery staff with charm and skill. If you’re interested in Edinburgh history, or beer, or whisky, or, like me, all of the above, I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
Tasting vintage whisky
We got back to the Holyrood Distillery shop tasting room full of information and slightly chilly. Two drams were waiting for us, both vintage whiskies.
Here’s another thing I didn’t know. Over the many decades that blended whisky rules supreme, people bought and stored cases of their favourite whisky. Not all of it was consumed. With the dawn of the internet, and a rising international interest in whisky, people are auctioning off bottles from the past.
Finding exactly when the bottle was produced can be difficult but customs labels can be your friend. We started with Robbie Burns, a blend that was probably bottled in the 1980s. It was smooth and gentle, had some smoke and a bit of toffee.
The second dram was a Ballantines (of historical significance to the tour) from sometime after 1976. It’s not difficult to see why it did so well. It’s fruity and fresh on the nose, a lot of esters. On the palate it’s light and spirited. What a treat these two were! Part of the fun with the tour is seeing what you get to taste. It will not always be the same.
The next tour is on Sunday (May 26), then Saturdays and Sundays from June 1. Enjoy!
73 St Leonard’s Hill
Edinburgh, EH8 9SB
The walking tours are in partnership with Kask Whisky.
Tickets are £27 and include the tour and a whisky tasting.