Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Whisky Shops in Scotland

Scotland:  Home of Golf and Whisky!

And while my golf game needs a fair amount of improvement, my appreciation for whisky is already very healthy.

If you are a whisky collector and a first time visitor, then you'll be amazed at the selection.  In fact, in every major store I visited, I found bottles there that I never even heard of in the US!  So, where to go?  Here's a non-definitive list of places.  The only thing they have in common is that I visited them personally.  And, although the Edinburgh and Heathrow duty free stores have a decent selection and some exclusive offerings, you'll find better overall selections elsewhere.  Those are there in case you accidentally open and polish off one of your bottles while you are visiting, and need to restock on the flight home ;)


Bottles in Scotland come in 700ml, 500ml, 200ml, 100ml and 50ml sizes.  You are allowed to bring up to 1 liter per adult back without paying additional duty fees.  That's 1000ml for those of you new to the metric system.  Also, 70cl = 700ml.  I've seen both on bottles.  My European readers are laughing now, but yes, this is necessary for some folks over here still

Details on duties can be found on the CBP site, here (as of June, 2014).  It does vary from country to country, so make sure to do your research.  Currently for Scotland, the standard duties apply.

The TSA does have a limit on the amount one can bring back, however, as well as maximum abv in each bottle.  Currently, the regulation states:

Please note, you can’t take alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol content (140 proof), including 95% grain alcohol and 150 proof rum, in your checked luggage. 
You may take up to five liters of alcohol with alcohol content between 24% and 70% per person as checked luggage if it’s packaged in a sealable bottle or flask.
Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol content are not subject to hazardous materials regulations.

Here is a link below to that regulation.  Please check it (or do your own google search) before flying, as it may be periodically updated:
TSA Alcohol Regulations

With the above rules in mind, you could legally take 7 full European bottles per person back with you (7x700ml = 4900 ml).

But, do check for regulations on the airline in which you are traveling with, as they may limit it to less per passenger or have other restrictions.

For example, here is Southwest's regulations

In theirs, they mention:
Alcohol (wine and liquor) must be in the original unopened container with the manufacturer's label when transported in or as checked baggage.

I pulled two samples from barrels at The Balvenie and bottled them myself.  By their rules, I don't know if those would be allowed on the plane.  I *think* they would be OK, even though they did not have a plastic seal over the cork, because they were packed in a special box that prevented it from opening.

With that out of the way, let's talk about great places to sample and buy whisky (besides the distilleries themselves, that is!)  Also, almost every place I went had an exclusive bottling that could only be found at that particular store.  This even included a market in Dufftown!  And, I'm sure they're good.  If only enough money, a room for them on the plane!  That's why I really liked getting smaller bottles whenever I could.

Finally, I'm leaving out The Scotch Malt Whisky Society from this particular review for two reasons:
  1. It's a private club, and you have to be a member to enter.  (Of course, you could buy a membership while you are there!)
  2. I'm planning on doing an entire entry on it at some point.


Royal Mile Whiskies

This is one of the most famous whisky stores in Edinburgh, and for good reason.  It's right on the Royal Mile, gets a ton of tourist traffic, they have an insanely incredible collection, and very friendly staff!  They had well over 50 whiskies that I never saw in Washington state, including a few American ones.  Although, they didn't yet stock any Washington whiskies.  Maybe someday soon :)

Samples: YES

Reminder: Click on images for larger versions.  Easier to read the labels that way:
See that blue tube on the left?  Get *that*

There's hard to find, then there's this.

I'll take this or the Macallan 1973 for my Birthday. 
Your choice :)

The Whisky Trail

This shop is also on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.  Again, the staff was friendly, and perhaps just a little more welcoming to the newer whisky collector than Royal Mile Whiskies.  (Both are very friendly)  That being said, their selection was not quite as extensive.  But all the major bases are covered.  Apologies for not posting more photos, but I only took the one below.  I'm more than happy to add some if you have them.

Samples: YES

Also, this was the first place we saw whisky flavored condoms for sale, so there is that.

Stay Classy, Scotland.

Whisky World

Edinburgh's Largest Selection of Whisky Miniatures!
Google Maps is having a hard time actually putting this in the right spot on their maps.  But, you can see it in street view.  Do a search for "Southern Cross Cafe" in maps in Edinburgh, and it is nearby.
36 Cockburn St
Old Town, Edinburgh
+44 131 226 2134

The store is a *little* off the beaten path, but not by much.  You can easily reach it, The Whisky Trail and Royal Mile Whiskies by foot all in the same day.  The store was quiet, and it really *did* have the biggest miniature collection I've ever seen.  For those of you who think that only big name

Samples: Did not see any
Photos: did not take any :/


The Whisky Shop

1 Fife St
Moray AB55 4AL, United Kingdom

+44 1340 821097

In addition to having a lovely selection, they sponsor the September Whisky festival in Dufftown.

Samples: YES

"Sorry, we're Open"

Bottles.  Amazing, I know.

Sample bottles here :)

Just a small subset of their entire lineup.



This market in Dufftown has more hard to find whiskies than most dedicated liquor stores in the US!  As of April 2014, they still had the Balvenie Rum Cask and the Snow Phoenix.  And those are some of the easier to find things there!  Heck, they even have their own exclusive bottlings.  And, their price is a bit better than other stores in Dufftown.  Only downsides: no samples and the selection not as big as The Whisky Shop. There is still enough here to max out your allowed bottles that you can take on a plane.

40 Balvenie St
Keith, Banffshire AB55 4AS,

+44 1340 820361

Samples: No  (It's a market after all!)
Why yes, that is a Rum Cask..

Their own release, McBains

Reminder: this is a market

Seriously, a market with food and magazines and such.

And whisky you can't find in most places where you live.

Why so many pics? I felt guilty not buying any.

I *did* get my daughter some candy.  Which is across the isle.

Whiskies of Scotland

36 Gordon St
AB54 8EQ, United Kingdom
+44 1466 795105

This is a huge retail outlet for their parent company, Duncan Taylor.  Duncan Taylor is an independent bottler.  Meaning, they buy barrels from other distilleries, age them in their own warehouses, then bottle them when they see fit, usually to cask strength.  The staff was friendly and knowledgeable.  And having a sample or two made it easy for me to know which bottles to buy.  They do now ship to the US.  But, the shipping & handling fees make it such that it is only worth buying things you can't find anywhere else.  However, when visiting, it then makes it worth it!  Especially, when you can taste a sample and know what you're getting first.

Samples: YES

Got my samples from this wall of 100ml bottles.

Just a small sample of their store.

I'm sure it's very tasty.  If you get some, let me try.

More harder to find offerings.

If I had a dollar for every time I saw a bottle
I wanted in Scotland, I could afford another bottle.

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