It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been able to raise a dram in celebration of World Whisky Day (21st May). Put that right by exploring the exciting new distilleries and other drink attractions cropping up across the capital.
As you’ll soon discover, "uisge beatha" (Gaelic for ‘the water of life’) is one of the best ways to explore the city and connect with its people as we enter a new post-pandemic world. Discover how our distilleries are offering a green twist on Scotland’s most popular export. Here are some of the Edinburgh distilleries which are shaking things up in the world of whisky and spirit. Sláinte!
In 2019, Edinburgh opened its first new distillery in over a century. Located right by the Royal Mile in a historic engine shed, the Holyrood Distillery is all about challenging the status quo when it comes to this heritage craft. Boasting unusual tall stills, the distillery’s focus is on flavour, exploring how barley can yield a dazzling array of tastes, from the traditional smoky, floral, and peaty to more unusual variations with hints ranging from chocolate to coffee. Holyrood’s biggest innovation is its service which allows you to customise a cask with a master distiller. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, settle for a tour, or treat yourself to two new spirits named ‘Charmed Circle’ (named after the ancient wells dotted around Arthur’s Seat). The city’s water is fused with two unique forms of barley, producing a signature spirit that perfectly encapsulates the distillery’s adventurous approach to whisky-making. This extends to the bottle labels made from 100% recyclable paper, which utilises waste from brewing.
Explore the Holyrood Distillery.
When Bonnington Distillery filled its first cask in March 2020, it marked the long-overdue return of whisky-making to Leith. Its construction was beset with delays due to the discovery of archaeological finds beneath its foundations. These included relics from a 16th century siege, a bronze forge, a forgotten mansion house, and even the remnants of a previous distillery from the 1700s – a vivid reminder of Leith’s former flourishing distilling industry.
Now the new home of John Crabbie & Co whiskies, the distillery doesn’t have a visitor centre yet. But you can still sample its fine single malt in one of the city’s many whisky-tasting bars.
The Port of Leith Distillery
Edinburgh’s most anticipated whisky offering has yet to open and is part of the exciting regeneration of Leith’s distilling and brewing heritage. Currently taking shape on the edge of the former Leith docklands near the Royal Yacht Britannia, this towering facility promises to set a new standard for sustainability in the whisky industry. Due to open in the late summer of 2022, the distillery’s unique stacked design will allow visitors to get up as close as possible to the entire whisky-making process, from the milling and mashing of the grain through to fermentation and finally, distillation.
Find out more about Port of Leith Distillery.
The Johnnie Walker Experience – 1820 Rooftop Bar
While not a distillery, this eight-floor immersive visitor centre is an essential destination for anyone with even a passing interest in whisky. Delve into the history of the world’s biggest blended Scotch whisky brand before heading up to its crowning glory, the 1820 Rooftop Bar. Boasting a mesmerising view of Edinburgh Castle, the bar provides a much-needed green space in the centre of the city. While its terrace planters provide herbs for garnishes and infusions, a sedum roof covering, and bird boxes encourage biodiversity. Then there’s the vast menu, featuring everything from classic cocktails like the timeless Whisky Old Fashioned to new twists on old favourites and surprising favour mashups like the Johnnie and the Peach. In short, it’s proof there’s a whisky tipple to match every palate, all crafted using the finest Scotch whiskies.
Visit the Johnnie Walker Experience and 1820 Rooftop Bar.
The Secret Garden Distillery
Edinburgh isn’t only renowned for its whisky. It’s also highly regarded for its local gin scene. A garden first and a distillery second, the Secret Garden believes in a holistic approach to spirit production that works hand in hand with nature. From the growing and hand-harvesting of over 600 floral and herbal varieties to the packaging of their delicious gins, sustainability is at the heart of the Secret Garden’s operations which span a distillery, shop, and café. Even the herbs and flowers growing in their nursery are specially selected for their compatibility with the local habitat, while others are cultivated for their medicinal and therapeutic properties which infuse their range of well-being products. See it for yourself on a guided tour where you’ll learn all about their botanicals before visiting the drying room and sitting down for a tasting session in the glasshouse.
Book a garden and distillery tour at the Secret Garden Distillery.