So when I returned to Edinburgh after a three day tour with Brian – our tour guide – I walked down the Royal Mile once again. I had walked on the same route on my first day in Edinburgh but today after having returned from the highlands the Royal Mile seemed to have a different charm of its own. My eyes only fell on three things all along the way this time – The Edinburgh Castle, Lambswool and Scotch Whisky.
At the very end of Royal Mile where the road gradually rises into a mount the Edinburgh castle stands tall. At the crest of the mount on the left of the road is a place that says ‘The Scotch Whisky Experience’. I knew I had to walk in here. I had seen it on my first day in Edinburgh and after my conversation with Brian had decided that I would visit this place once I’m back.
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It was much like a Hogwarts experience. The reception desk partially hides the left half of an entrance to a tunnel that runs behind it. You can see half cut wooden barrels fitted with seats running on a track and passing into the dark tunnel every now and then. On the wall on the right side of the tunnel entrance is a portrait of the owner of the place. Its not just a portrait. The picture inside the frame moves around and beckons the on-lookers. At the far right end is their whisky shop that holds one of the most popular, well known as well as rare brands of scotch whisky. They have whisky bottles in all sizes and shapes. This is the most exotic looking whisky shop that I have ever seen.
Did you miss the first article? Read The Scot Shots: The Scottish Tongue!
We took the ride to take the tour of the scotch whisky experience. They took us to the entrance of the tunnel and seated us in the half cut barrels that we had seen disappearing into the tunnel.
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Once we were seated the barrel moved forward into the darkness of the tunnel and we were in the world of scotch whisky …as if we were inside the barrel with the whisky while it was being prepared. It was a 4D experience as the barrel had been fitted with various outlets that gave us the feel of heat, humidity, smell and sound of the whisky while it was being made. It took us through the whisky making process of Malt Whisky.
The process of steeping the grain (barley) in water to let it germinate and then drying it in heat.
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The dried germinated grain called malt is then ground into course floor and then hot boiling water is added to it. It is stirred to convert the starch to sugar. The liquid thus obtained is called wort. The residue after removing the liquid is called draff which is processed into cattle feed
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The wort is now cooled and yeast is added to it. This living organism consumes the sugar in the wort and gives out alcohol and carbon dioxide. The releasing of carbon dioxide gives rise to a lot of froth and bubbles. You can see the bubbles in the picture here. After 2 days of fermentation the content now contains 6-8% of alcohol by volume.
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The liquid containing alcohol called the wash is distilled mutiple times to separate the alcohol from the water, yeast and residue. It is distilled repeatedly until it becomes 68% of alcohol by volume.
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This fresh alcohol is then filled in casks/ barrels and locked for a long time where all the flavours in it get enhanced and blend well with each other. This is where the whisky becomes smoother and attains its golden color depending on the type of cask used.
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By Law the Scotch Whisky needs to be matured for atleast 3 years but most single malt whiskys are allowed to mature for about 6-12 years before they are bottled and sold.
By the time I was out of the experience, I knew how to identify the smell at different stages of whisky making and had a strong urge to taste the final product that comes out of it. Still fantasizing on the wizardry of whisky making that I had just experienced, I wondered how many different types there were in Malt Whisky and how they were different from each other. Just then a lady announced to us:
“I will now take you to the Whisky tasting experience. Follow me please.”
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We will go whisky tasting in the next Scot Shot!
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