A Wee Nip: A Whisky Stay in Edinburgh

At Hotel Indigo Edinburgh, we’re all about our neighbourhood. We make it our priority to learn everything there is to know about the world at our front doorstep. That’s why we’re experts when it comes to the whisky in Edinburgh. If you’re looking to explore Edinburgh’s whisky scene, visit the local distilleries, and see why it’s an essential trip for lovers of the Scottish spirit, then you’re in the right place.

Photograph of Edinburgh skyline on a gloomy day

A Short History of Whisky

First things first – is it whiskey or whisky? 

Hotel Indigo Edinburgh is located in Scotland’s capital, meaning the word derives from the Scots and Gaelic work ‘Uisce beatha’ meaning water of life. The difference in the spelling comes from the translation of this work in the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms and because in the late 1800s Scottish whisky was considered to be of poor quality, so as not to associate themselves with the product, Irish distillers used the difference in spelling to differentiate themselves.

Scotch whisky is always spelt without an ‘e’ and to fit this definition the drink has to be matured in oak for at least three years and produced and matured in Scotland. Single malt Scotch whisky must be made from 100% malted barley. Irish whiskey however is always spelled with the ‘e’. It’s also matured for at least three years but it uses little to no peat, meaning it lacks the smokiness of Scotch whisky. Irish whiskey is distilled three times. 

Both Ireland and Scotland have claimed to have invented the spirit over the years. However, while there is evidence of whisky in Scotland in production in the late 1400s, the oldest whisky distillery in the world is the Old Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland. Edinburgh’s relevance to the drink was really consolidated in the 19th century when whisky production grew much larger with new laws and the introduction of railway lines. When production grew, demand grew and Edinburgh was at the centre. 

The success of the industry helped Edinburgh grow and draw in a larger population. More than this though, some of the leading men in the history of whisky were responsible for iconic Edinburgh sites as well. Andrew Usher Jr, the well-known pioneer of blended whisky, paid for the construction of Edinburgh’s largest music hall, Usher Hall. Today you can see acts like Pretenders as well as Scotland’s National Orchestra at Usher Hall. 

Whisky is integral to Scotland’s history and Edinburgh is at the heart of that. 

Edinburgh Whiskey Tours

If you’re heading to Edinburgh with the dream of great whisky in mind, then you have to attend the Scotch Whisky Experience. It’s a five-star attraction with tours, private events, and the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection. There’s a variety of tours – making it ideal for all sorts of budgets and tastes. For those dipping their toes into the spirit try the Silver Tour featuring a guided tour and a tasting of a single malt. The platinum tour will provide a fully immersive whisky journey visiting five unique Edinburgh venues, a chocolate pairing, and a gift bag. Plus, after taking a tour of the best whisky establishments in the city, you can enjoy some incredible food (and of course whisky) at their Amber Restaurant. Find out more here: https://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/

For those who prefer the darker side of life the Edinburgh: The Lost Close Underground Scotch Whiskey tasting is only £35 per person. Get introduced to whisky tasting in the underground vaults underneath Edinburgh’s Old Town. It’s sure to be an experience you’re unlikely to forget. 

Or you could make your own tour. Visit Scotland has an incredibly handy map of distilleries in Scotland so whether you want to stay in the city centre and head to the Holyrood Distillery or branch a little further out to the Glenkinchie Distillery, 15 miles out of Edinburgh, you can craft the perfect day for yourself.

Image of whisky in an Edinburgh bar on the shelves.

Edinburgh Whisky Clubs

Looking for a unique way to experience whisky in Edinburgh? The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was founded in 1983 by friends who treasured flavour and wanted to share the experience with one another. Membership to the society allows you access to exclusive members-only events and access to whiskeys hand-picked by their expert tasting panel. The tasting experiences are out of the ordinary so this may not be for traditional taste. Fancy trying whisky with a beer chaser done the right way/ this will be right up your alley. 

If you are into a more refined exclusive members-only club, then Scotch Club at The Balmoral might be more suited to your tastes. You’ll be able to access experienced and educated whisky ambassadors to help make each visit unique. Plus you’ll have advanced invitations to whisky masterclasses, complimentary whisky tasting for two, and your name engraved on your personalized keep, visible when you enter the world-class whisky bar.

The Best Edinburgh Whiskey Shops

One of the delights of a trip to a new city is taking back gifts and keepsakes you can’t get at home. For the whisky lovers amongst you it’s the perfect time to stock up your drinks cabinet. Built with so many shops selling the spirit, it’s hard to know where to head to. 


Royal Mile Whiskies

Royal Mile Whiskies have been trading for over 25 years and have been named retailer of the Year by Whisky Magazine eight times. They sell exclusive bottles as well as rare and old whiskeys and even books about the drink. 

Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop

Cadenhead’s whisky shop is a unique choice. It’s the oldest independent bottler in Scotland with the first bottle shop opening in 1842 in Aberdeen. They specialise in limited releases so it’s a chance to try something you won’t be able to get anywhere else. 

Whiski Rooms 

While it may be better known as an excellent bar and restaurant, the Whiski Rooms do also have a bottle shop. With great regular tasting and events, it should definitely be on your radar. 

Jeffrey Street Whisky and Tobacco

While this shop might not be as established as others mentioned on this list, it’s a unique find and one that many tourists might not consider. The staff are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable, willing to go the extra mile to create a great experience for you. Plus with releases that are described as ‘odd and obscure’, it sounds unlike anywhere else you’ll experience in Edinburgh.

Image of a whisky distillery with barrels piled to highlight distillery tours in and around Edinburgh

Planning a perfect Edinburgh whisky trip is easy when you have the right help. The city is packed with great resources and retailers happy to help you make your holiday the best it possibly can be. From tours to societies to specialist beer shops, the world is at your fingertips. You’re sure to have a fantastic adventure and leave with very full suitcases stocked up on the good stuff. Get in touch now to discuss your next whisky trip.

Our Edinburgh hotel lies within the Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage site and occupies five original Georgian townhouses just moments from both Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle.

Our hotel in Edinburgh has preserved many of the original features including decorative stairwells and a unique cupola. The chic and contemporary interior reflects the life and vibrancy of Edinburgh today.

There are 60 individual Edinburgh hotel bedrooms and junior suites to choose from and our regular guests have their firm favourites. Each guestroom in our Edinburgh city centre hotel is individually decorated reflecting the neighbourhood story with details of Edinburgh’s rich history and Summer Festival traditions.

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Food & Drink

Join us for breakfast, and fuel up for the day ahead with our selection of continental items and a-la carte dishes which are cooked to order using local produce where possible. You can’t stay at our Edinburgh hotel without trying a ‘Wee Dram’. We have a selection of fine whisky to take you around the most famous Scottish distilleries, with the occasional stop off in places such as Wales and Japan. Alternatively, try one of our craft beers or ‘softies’.

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