5 of the best places in Edinburgh for beginners to learn about whisky

New to, or curious, about Scotch whisky? A visit to the capital is filled with options for enjoying a dram or two but what if you are wanting to learn more?

Published 16th Mar 2018
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Thankfully, Edinburgh caters for all levels of whisky fan and if you're in need of more information on how to enjoy a good dram here are five of the best places to go.

5 of the best places in Edinburgh for beginners to learn about whisky

The Scotch Whisky Experience

(354 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE)

best places in Edinburgh to learn about whisky

Picture: Scotch Whisky Experience

What better way to kick proceedings off than with a venue designed to introduce people to Scotch whisky. The Scotch Whisky Experience offers several levels of tastings to give you the low down on everything from production to tasting and is a great way to find out the answers to all of those niggling questions.

Start off with the educational tour (£13.50) which takes you on a journey through the history of the world of whisky or become a 'one-hour-whisky-expert' with the Silver tour (£15.50) before grabbing a bite to eat in the Amber Restaurant afterwards.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

(28 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JX)

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Picture: Phil Wilkinson

It might seem counter intuitive to go to a whisky club set up for experienced whisky fans as a beginner to learn about whisky but in fact, the Society's flavour forward approach strips away a lot of the confusing aspects of whisky and allows you to just taste and enjoy Scotland's national drink.

With a variety of themed tastings including Islay whiskies and whisky and burger tasting there's plenty of enjoyable ways to sample some great drams.

But, should you want something a little more bespoke, then the team at the Society offer a customised tasting based on your tastes or requirements for £29 per person (booking in advance is required) meaning you can pick exactly what you want to learn about.

Glenkinchie Distillery

(Pencaitland, Tranent EH34 5ET)

best places in Edinburgh to learn about whisky

Picture: Diageo

One of the easiest ways (and probably one of the most enjoyable ways) to learn about whisky is to go straight to the source and though Edinburgh doesn't have a distillery in the city centre yet (there are no less than three planned over the next few years) they do have an picturesque little site very close by with a newly refurbished visitor's centre and a great tour.

Half an hour south of the city - with plenty of transport options - lies Glenkinchie, with an experience that includes a complimentary dram of Glenkinchie 12 Year Old Single Malt, a tour round the lowland distillery and a look at a unique exhibition on the original malting floors, home to their renowned model distillery, it will furnish you with plenty of facts and all for just a tenner.

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Those looking for a truly geeky experience can enjoy the Manager’s Tasting (£150) where you get to spend two hours in an exclusive tasting of six different whisky expressions with Glenkinchie's distillery manager.

Whisky Tastings at Cadenhead’s

(172 Canongate, Royal Mile, EH8 8BN)

best places in Edinburgh to learn about whisky

Picture: Cadenhead's

A wander down the Canongate will bring you to one of our favourite whisky venues in the capital and a true hidden gem. Cadenhead’s is Scotland's oldest independent bottler and their bottle shop in Edinburgh is where you'll find some of the most knowledgeable experts around.

With plenty of retail options (their whisky range is both excellent value and wonderfully varied) the shop also offers plenty of tastings that are perfect for beginners so once you are being impressed by the encyclopedic knowledge of the people behind the counter, you can sit down with them to learn more about - and taste - some great whiskies.

The regional tastings (you need to book in advance) which include 6 whiskies – five single malts and one blend – sees each of Scotland’s regions, styles and categories explored for just £25 per person.

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If you want to learn more about how cask styles or age affect the whisky, or you just really like a particular region, then the staff will gladly tailor a bespoke tasting for you for £35 (and above depending on the whiskies you want) per person, again you will need to book in advance.


(2-4 Hope St, Edinburgh EH2 4DB)

best places in Edinburgh to learn about whisky

Picture: Usquabae

The centrally located and wonderfully named Usquabae (pronounced Oosh ka ba) is another of Edinburgh's excellent whisky bars and the perfect place to while away an evening (or late afternoon) learning about whisky.

Offering five whisky flights with one to one tuition (48 hours booking in advance required) you can enjoy a tour of Scotland, whisky through the decades or even a selection of drams from Scotland's Silent Distilleries, giving you a fun way to navigate through tasting without feeling like you have to have to be an expert.

• READ MORE: 18 of the best whisky bars in Scotland

• READ MORE: 8 of the best whisky bars in Edinburgh

• READ MORE: 9 of the best whisky hotels in Scotland

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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