Enjoy the Scotch Whisky Experience
Housed in a stately old school building near Edinburgh Castle, the Scotch Whisky Experience offers fascinating insight into the history, development and distilling of Scotland’s iconic beverage. Visitors can stop by and examine the various displays at leisure, but to get the full benefit of a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience it a good idea to join one of the guided interactive tours of the museum. There are four tours to choose from – Silver, Gold, Platinum and Taste of Scotland – as well as master-classes for more dedicated whisky enthusiasts and educational tours for groups of school children and students.
Visitors are taken through the process of whisky making in a replica distillery modeled on Tormore Distillery in Speyside. The tour guide explains how various ingredients and processing methods have an impact on the flavor of the final product, to the extent that whisky aficionados can identify where a whisky was made.
The process in making whisky is both lengthy and intricate. It generally starts with the finest quality of barley being soaked in the purest water before being spread out to germinate on malting floors. It takes about six days for the barley to germinate, during which time enzymes convert the grain’s starch into sugar. The germinated barley, or ‘green malt’, is put into a kiln at low heat to dry out and stop the germination process. At this stage peat may be added to the fire in the kiln for the smoke to infuse the green malt with flavor.
Once the green malt is dry, it’s ground into coarse flour and mixed with hot water. The quality of the water, which is usually drawn from nearby natural sources, is an important part of the process. A sweet liquid, referred to as ‘wort’, is drained from the mash, cooled and transferred into containers. At this point yeast is added and the fermentation process starts. Following fermentation, the liquid is distilled twice before being transferred to oak casks to mature for a minimum of three years. Whiskies are then either bottled as single malts, or blended before being bottled. Up to 2% of the liquid may evaporate during maturation and this is referred to as “the angel’s share”.
A trip on the Scotch Whisky Barrel Ride at the Scotch Whisky Experience takes visitors past displays depicting the interesting history of whisky making and the people who distilled, distributed (not always legally) and drank a dram or two -altogether an enjoyable and educational excursion.