Scotch Whisky Experience

My dad’s tipples are beer and whisky. He has visited different distilleries across Scotland, but had never been to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, so for his 70th birthday, I decided to treat him to the gold tour.

SWE (1)

All tours begin with a gentle ride in a ‘whisky barrel’ learning about the origin of whisky.  The first stop after the ride is a sensory experience of whisky. All guests were given scratch cards with circles on them depicting each of the regions of Scotland where whisky is distilled. Whilst watching a video and learning more, we scratched the relevant circle to smell the whisky from that area. Some of the whiskies have a very distinct smell.

The next stop was whisky tasting. Each visitor chose the region of whisky they would like to sample before moving on to the sampling room, which is also host to a large whisky collection. We were shown how to swirl the glass to check the viscosity of the whisky. Hold the whisky to the light to check its colour. Smell the whisky. And then sample the whisky. All visitors get to keep the glass provided.

For all those you say it is sacrilege to add water to whisky, whisky actually tastes better with a dash of water. This is because it enhances the flavour of the whisky.

The tour finishes in the bar, where the most expensive whiskies are stored. And it is here where the gold tour comes into its own. Each guest is given four whiskies to sample from each of the regions of Scotland.

SWE (2)

My dad and I learned different things from our visit.

I learned I really don’t like whisky from Islay! The smell alone is enough to turn my stomach. My dad favours this make of whisky.

My dad was shocked to learn the meaning of ‘the angels share’. Whisky which evaporates into the atmosphere during the distilling process and once bottled if the seal is broken or damaged. There was one empty bottle on display that although had never been opened, had a damaged seal, and the whisky had all evaporated. I think my dad will be enjoying a tipple of whisky more often to get the full benefit of all his malts and not share with the angels!


Being a tourist in my own city

I’m ashamed to say that I have lived in Edinburgh for 10 years and only climbed to the top of the Scott Monument in east Princes Street gardens this summer! It was a lovely day and could see all across the city from the top. Its definitely one of my top ten things to do in Edinburgh.


So what can you expect to see? Miniature buses, cars and people on Princes Street a long way down; the iconic Balmoral Hotel clock; and Calton Hill.

Moving south east the next view is North Bridge and Salisbury Crags. Just noticed that I can spot a previous workplace in the bottom left hand corner! The City of Edinburgh Council headquarters.


Continuing to move east, the next view is my favourite. St Giles Cathedral, Church of Scotland Assembly, Edinburgh Castle (and tattoo stands), Scottish National Gallery, and big wheel. Not forgetting the Lothian buses on the mound!

Turning a right angle and facing north, the next views are the newly reinstated RW Forsyth Spire on top of Topshop and the Melville Monument in St Andrew Square.

There are also two further afield views to see, the Forth Rail Bridge to the north and the Hillend ski slopes to the south.

If you haven’t already climbed to the top, a clear day is advisable to see as much as you can see. And be prepared to get very up close to strangers as the spiral staircases are very narrow and it’s two-way!

Just another day in Edinburgh

Today when I was out shopping, I saw a rat run across the road and into a clothes shop!  This is the first time I have seen a live rat in Edinburgh.  I’ve seen many model rats at the Dungeon and Mary Kings Close, but never a live rat.  It got me to thinking about other things I have seen when out and about, mainly people I’ve spotted.  I was walking home from a walk one evening when I spotted Susan Boyle having a selfie taken with a fan outside the Playhouse.  I was walking home from the book festival and spotted Gordon Strachan on George Street.  And I have been on a Lothian bus twice with Therese Bradley who plays DS/DCI Rachel Grant in River City.  Who or what will I see next?

Mother’s Gin and Draft Bar

I would like to begin by holding my hands up and admitting I am not a gin or draft drinker and so can not comment on the beveridge’s available!  I went for the food.  Which was very nice.  My dining companion and I went straight to main courses and had seared salmon fillet with sweet potato & coriander potato cake in a coconut & thai spice infused sauce.  Delish, especially the sauce.  To finish I had strawberry meringue which was very light and ended the meal on a high note.  The one downside was that we were seated in a cubby hole which was quite dark and it would have been nicer to be seated in main dining area which was more open and light.

No. 11 Brunswick Street

From the outside, the building is very nondescript.  This can not be said about the service and food.  There are only about a dozen tables so booking in advance is advisable.  The seasonal menu offered four starters, five mains, and four desserts to choose from.

Breaking with tradition, there was no soup to begin with.  The starter choices were: smoked Aberdeen haddock caesar salad; chicken liver and brandy parfait; salmon tartare bound with creme fraiche; crispy vegetable wontons with sweet chilli dip and toasted chai seed salad.  I was tempted by the salmon tartare had it not been for the accompaniments of diced anchovies, gherkins and free range egg yolk.  Both I and dining partner opted for the crispy vegetable wontons and no crumb was left on the plate.

Moving on to the next instalment, the main course choices were: oven roasted fillet of hake with asparagus, pancetta and parmesan mash with sun blushed tomato pesto; confit of duck leg and chorizo ravioli with sauteed seasonal greens, local wild herbs and parmesan and milk sauce infusion; crispy pork belly with chilli caramelised shallots and new season baby potatoes; asparagus, roast pepper and sun blushed tomato mini calzone, artichoke heart and mozzarella salad.  My dining partner opted for the hake (which was a close second for me) and I went with the crispy pork belly.  It was clear plates all round excluding the shallots.

To finish the evening, the dessert choices were: white chocolate and banana parfait with puff candy crumbs; vanilla and strawberry creme brulee; selection of scottish cheeses, oatcakes, apple and pear chutney.  As it is not something I have tried before, I opted for the white chocolate and banana parfait and was not disappointed.  My dining partner went with the creme brulee and was equally happy.

A minimum price per head of £26 for two courses should be expected, rising to £32 for three courses.  The daily deals website itison occasionally offer a voucher for £30 for two people to enjoy a three course dinner at the venue which is a bargain!


Wagamama was a completely new experience for me … and I loved it!

I opted for chicken katsu curry. Breadcrumbed chicken, curry sauce, and rice. Simple but brill! My dining companion opted for the same but with noodles rather than rice.

We also opted for two sides. Chicken gyoza (steamed chicken and vegetable dumplings) and yasai gyoza (steamed grilled vegetable dumplings). Not to my taste buds unfortunately.

We couldn’t choose what to have for dessert so opted for a taster portion of three desserts to share. Passion fruit cheesecake, white chocolate ginger cheesecake and chocolate fudge cake. The winner was definitely the white chocolate ginger cheesecake.

I am now a Wagamama convert and already planning a return visit to restaurant in Glasgow!


Another deal voucher, another restaurant. This time Rick’s at Frederick Street.

My dining companion and I went on a Friday night, which wasn’t the best in hindsight as very busy and not enough staff.

The deal was for steak, sauce and chips with a glass of wine. Nice enough but have sampled better and not tempted to go back to Rick’s for same again.

As Friday we opted for a dessert to finish. I had a salted caramel chocolate tart which was really nice. A key lime cheesecake across the table didn’t get the thumbs up though.

I am tempted to go back to Rick’s however for chocolate fondue with strawberries, profiteroles, brandy snaps, cookies, vanilla sponge and strawberry jelly lollipops …. Watch this space!