Bringing together whisky and good friends

Private Barrel Co 2016 Scotland Tour – Edinburgh

As the (extremely) lucky winner of the Checkers Private Barrel Co “What Kind of Mac Are You?” competition, I got to head over to Scotland in October 2016 to join the Private Barrel Co selection panel in picking out their next release.

It was a whirlwind tour, crammed full of brilliant experiences and tons of great memories! I’ve starting writing about my trip on several occasions, but have scrapped every draft as I felt I couldn’t do it justice. So instead, I’ve opted to capture the three days in the form of a photo diary. Enjoy!

Arriving in Edinburgh

After a long, crammed and restless flight from SA to London and battling through customs at Heathrow (it never gets any less stressful), I met up with Hein from Checkers and we hopped on the flight up to Edinburgh where our adventures would truly begin. I always make a point to consciously remember as my foot steps on to Scottish soil – this time, the runway tarmac at Edinburgh Airport. I had arrived!

First Sighting of Edinburgh Castle

A light rain pattered on the windows of the car as we winded our way through the streets of Edinburgh, heading for the hotel. Then suddenly, through a gap in the trees, I spotted the Edinburgh Castle. A rather impressive sight! Its position atop Castle Rock, dominates the entire city – much as Table Mountain does for Cape Town – and it’s easy to see why this location was selected for its construction. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the poor bugger who had to scale an attack against this imposing fortress!

The Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh

Our accommodation for the night was the beautiful Scotsman Hotel, a lovely old Edwardian building that housed The Scotsman newspaper for almost a century. Looking out of the window across the city scape, it was hard to miss The Scott Monument, erected in honour of Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. Picture a gothic rocketship on steroids and you get an idea of what it looks like – I love it! And if we had more than a day in Edinburgh, I would have climbed to the top of it and enjoyed its panoramic views of the city. Next time.

Walking The Royal Mile

After a quick change of clothes and bite to eat, we were off with our host Scott Dickson, Marketing Manager for the Loch Lomond Group (LLG) and a local tour guide to explore the Royal Mile. Our guide had us chuckling away with bawdy stories of the misadventures of the locals throughout Edinburgh’s history as we worked our way up the hill towards Edinburgh Castle.

Blue Skies Over Edinburgh Castle

As you can see from the photo above, the weather had cleared, and stayed clear for the remainder of our time in Scotland. Sweeping views and more history lessons followed as we stood on the Esplanade in front of the Castle. We then had the tough choice of deciding to explore the castle, or drink whisky. With a promise to myself that I would return one day and spend a full week seeing the sights of Edinburgh, the whisky won.

Visiting The Scotch Whisky Experience

A stone’s throw from the Esplanade, lay our first whisky stop – The Scotch Whisky Experience. An incredibly popular attraction for tourists visiting the city who either have never ventured into the world of whisky, or those who won’t be able to visit a distillery whilst in Scotland.

After a ride in a whisky cask through their virtual distillery – a very cool intro into whisky for the newbie – it was time for a session with our tour guide on the different regions in Scotland, where we got to select a dram from our preferred region.

Taking in the Sights in The Collection Room

Dram in hand, it was time to take a walk through the Diageo Claive Vidiz Whisky Collection, or more simply, The Collection. Brazilian, Claive Vidiz, began collecting all types of whisky in the 1970s and over the course of 35 years ended up with a rather impressive 3,384 bottles of Scotch whisky!

Hein Enjoying A Dram Surrounded By The Collection

As you can see from the smirk on Hein’s face, this is a great place to sip on a whisky and take in the surroundings.

Some Of The Incredible Bottles On Display In The Collection

The Collection contains a large number of arbitrary whiskies, but in amongst them there are some absolute beauties! I was drawn to these stunning Cadenhead bottlings of old. Simply beautiful!

Exploring The Collection At The Scotch Whisky Experience (Photo courtesy of LLG)

This was a room where I could have easily spent a few hours, but sadly that wasn’t an option. I was also thrilled to see several bottles in the collection that I am glad to say I have at home. Will I end up with 3000+ bottles of my own some day like Mr Vidiz? Not if my wife has anything to say about it!

Drams At The Scotch Whisky Experience (Photo courtesy of LLG)

Learning about whisky is thirsty work, plus we had just walked the length of the Royal Mile, so it was time for a few drams at the bar at The Scotch Whisky Experience before taking a look through their whisky shop and heading back down the hill to our hotel.

Royal Mile Whiskies and St Giles’ Cathedral

As you can well imagine, there are more than a few whisky shops on and around the Royal Mile, but it would have been wrong to not go into Royal Mile and pick up a bottle for our road trip!

Dramming At Whiski Bar

With an hour to kill before heading out to dinner, it was time for… you guessed it… a whisky! Just around the corner from The Scotsman is a place called the Whiski Bar (yes, it ends with an “i”, no I have no idea why). Great atmosphere, funky decor and a nice selection of drams with a restaurant too if you’re looking for a bite to eat.

Enjoying A Lagavulin 8yo At Whiski Bar

Scanning through the bottles on the back shelf at the bar, I saw the Lagavulin 8 Year Old, 200th Anniversary edition and knew I just had to taste it. Big and smoky, with lovely sweet notes. A really nice drinker.

Dinner With LLG And Checkers

We rounded off an excellent day with a good seafood dinner, paired with some Loch Lomond whiskies before heading back to the hotel. An early start awaited us – we were off to pick up our travelling companion, Joe (also from Checkers) – who had missed out on Edinburgh due to his flight being cancelled – before making our way up to the Loch Lomond distillery in Alexandria for the second leg of our quest to find the next Private Barrel Co release!

(Full disclosure: As a prize winner, all expenses were covered by Checkers and the Loch Lomond Group but as always, full editorial control over the content of this story remains with me.

All photos, including the ones supplied from the Loch Lomond Group – LLG – were taken on the day of the trip. Nothing extra added. So yes, what you see captures exactly how awesome the visit to Edinburgh was!)

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