The Whisky Tasting Club

Book Tour part 7: Edinburgh

It’s hard to walk west down Prince’s Street in Edinburgh when the sun is setting and the historic buildings and churches are silhouetted in front of you and the castle stares down high above to the left without feeling a dramatic sense of awe.

And so it is this evening as I walk down to Waterstones in the west end. And I admit it, I’m nervous. This is Edinburgh, whisky’s heartland, and 60 tickets for the event sold out weeks ago. One of my career highlights was walking  in to Waterstones during English school half term a month ago in the week the book was released and finding it on display. But with that come pressure and this is the biggest date on the pre Christmas leg of the tour.

I’m staying at the Scotsman, one of my favourite hotels. It’s an old newspaper office for a starter, and it comes with all the gravitas and authority that that implies. It’s perched high on North Bridge and overlooks the main part of the centre of Edinburgh, including The Balmoral, Edinburgh’s prestige hotel venue.

And it’s quirky. The newspaper theme runs throughout, but it’s built in to the cliff so you have to go down in the lift to reach many rooms, not up. At the bottom there is a leisure club with the coolest relaxing swimming pool in the world. I’ve brought my trunks but fat chance of finding time for a swim.

Still i have a wonderful room and great rate through Late Rooms.

I was feeling pleased with myself because Waterstones is just at the bottom of the hill. Trouble is it’s the wrong Waterstones so I have to walk 15 minutes down Prince’s Street with six bottles of whisky and 50 glasses so time isn’t on my side.

The evening turns out all fine, though. The turn out isn’t quite 60 but it’s the biggest group so far and they’re switched on and interested. They get through the whisky pretty quickly, too – two bottles each of Glenrothes, Ardmore and Laphroaig.   I’m getting in to a stride now. For Glenrothes I talk about Ronnie Cox, stylish and modern packaging and the use of vintage year rather than age statement.

For Ardmore I talk about Scotland’s many hidden gem distilleries, including this one, its impressive growth as a single malt, and the role of the quarter sized cask. And for Laphroaig Quarter Cask I talk about the importance – or potentially unimportance – of age and how the process has enriched the malt in this case.

There’s just one slightly bizarre twist to proceedings. A bloke in his 30s – I think English – comes and stands right next to me and right in front of my audience and proceeds to butt in with increasingly random and bizarre questions – such as, name all the distilleries which make organic whisky. It makes engaging with everyone else difficult to say the least, but I struggle through and  in typical Scottish fashion everyone is very sympathetic afterwards but several suggest I should have decked him.

“We’d have backed you up because he was a wanker,” one person says. I love Scotland.

This evening lasts well over one and a half hours and I’m delighted with it. Every last drop of whisky is consumed. But I have to make a speedy exit as I have a Movember event to attend…

 Maxxium is home to Ardmore, Glenrothes, Highland Park, The Macallan and Laphroaig

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