All too often, Edinburgh has labored under the traditional notion of being solely a whisky and ale-loving capital, with the golden liquid being chugged in pubs and hidden whisky joints that dot the city. But nothing could be further from the truth as a recent sojourn opened my eyes (and palate) to how this adventurous Scottish city has been shaking more than just Old Fashioneds in the past few years. The drinking scene has livened up, and it goes beyond the eponymous Scotch (although that still remains personal favorite)!
A “gin-volution” at Pickering’s Gin
When your first steps into Pickering’s Gin’s working distillery lead you through a bar named The Royal Dick, you already have an inkling that this will not be your run-of-the-mill distillery tour.
For founders Marcus Pickering and Matt Gammell, it was fortuitous timing when the old Royal (Dick) Veterinary School kennels became vacant and Pickering inherited a gin recipe from his late father. Dated July 17, 1947, this original Bombay recipe produces a gin full of fragrant spices and fresh citrus fruits. With the duo’s penchant for good gin thrown in, it was a natural evolution for them to start Pickering’s Gin in 2013.
Pickering’s Gin is located in the sprawling arts complex of Summerhall, where visitors can soak in some contemporary artwork at the bar before heading off to their next sipping destination.
Afternoon tea at Signet Library
Not all afternoon teas are created equal and this is especially true for the Signet Library afternoon tea at The Colonnades. The 500-year-old Georgian building is home to the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet, a venerable association of Scottish lawyers.
Among the historical tomes that line the library’s bookshelves, visitors can partake of a traditional British afternoon tea, complete with savory and sweet selections that reflect fresh, locally sourced produce in line with the seasons. These are artfully arranged on cake tiers and accompanied by unlimited refills of fine blended tea by Wee Tea, or for those who prefer, Champagne, fizz, or cocktails.
The afternoon tea is available from 11 am to 5 pm from Sunday to Friday and reservations are recommended, although a few tables are left free for walk-ins. Away from the hustle and bustle of The Royal Mile, this is a welcome respite that takes you back to the grandeur of the 19th century for one afternoon.
A fitting whisky finale at Whiski Rooms
I could not leave Scotland without partaking of its most famous libation. So on our last night in Edinburgh, we were lucky to grab a table at Whiski Rooms, panoramically positioned at the top of The Mound (although another one is around the corner at The Royal Mile). If the restaurant is full, the bar offers some bar snacks to while away your hunger pangs, accompanied by guided whisky tastings before settling down for a range of seasonal dishes that gives a real taste of Scotland.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to sample the creations anchored on local produce which the restaurant champions. And the best part are the recommended whisky pairings which simply heighten the dining experience.
If you have time, do try to avail of the whisky tastings which expand on the experience, allowing you to appreciate the different characteristics of malt whisky, accompanied by tasting notes. Slàinte mhòr!