Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Best Pubs in Edinburgh, Part 6

The White Horse Bar
266 Canongate
Edinburgh, Scotland

Located just around the corner from The Waverley (see yesterday's post), The White Horse Bar is probably the only other place in the whole Royal Mile area that has not suffered a makeover for the benefit of tourists. No, this little gem caters to locals and it is mainly locals who fill the tiny interior (6 stools at the bar and three tables along one wall), although tourists and strangers will be sure to receive a warm welcome, so don't be shy.

This pub is located just outside what would have been the old Flodden Wall (read a bit about the old town here), the gates of the city (hence the name of The End of the World pub on the opposite side of the intersection. When on this strip called the high street, royal mile, and canongate at different sections, tourists would be well advised to take note that if you are walking uphill you are going towards the castle and if you are walking downhill you are walking towards the palace. Helpful to know when by "walking" you mean "stumbling" back to your hotel/b&b/etc.

And as much as I want it to be true, I have recently learned that this is not the old coach house and inn after which White Horse whisky was named, but why the hell not go in and order a Lagavulin anyways?

For more of Dr. Whisky's picks of the best pubs in Edinburgh, click HERE.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Best Pubs in Edinburgh, Part 5

Just so we are clear, this not a "top 5" list, but it is a list of Dr Whisky's picks for best pubs in Edinburgh; places you really ought to drop a few pounds, slide back a few pints, and spend a few hours if and when in Scotland's capital city. In no particular order.

The Waverley Tavern
3-5 St. Mary's St.
Edinburgh, Scotland


First thing is first: like many whiskies enjoyed on this malt mission, this pub is not going to appeal to everyone. It kind of smells, has a very limited selection of drinks, and the bathrooms are pretty minging. But it is an old school classic in a stretch of touristy hell holes on the high street with, I think, a really gorgeous front facade and it is a place that I remember fondly... even the night that the whole red carpet was soaked and squishy under your feet from a bout of heavy rain and a structural leak.

McEwans Export is served in classic glass beer mugs and the drams of Teachers, Black Label, Laphroaig and Macallan come in at £2 or less. Match that with a well-dressed proprietor and the few attractive young ladies he hires to work around him and you have a pretty excellent drinking experience.

They also have an extra space upstairs if you are a larger group or just want a little privacy away from the bar.

For more of Dr. Whisky's picks of the best pubs in Edinburgh, click HERE.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best Pubs in Edinburgh, Part 4

Happy Monday. We will continue to list Dr. Whisky's choices of the best places in Edinburgh to have a drink cuz life is too short to spend time in shit pubs.

The Dagda Bar
93 Buccleuch St (pronounced buck-LOO)
Edinburgh, Scotland
0131 667 9773

Formerly known as Proctors Pub, this pub recently (2005) fell into the hands of new management with a new overall vision for the place. And thank goodness. In fact, thank Alexander "Sandy" Patterson (the ginger-haired man often found behind the bar).

Named after the celtic God Dagda, the protector of the tribe, one couldn't feel safer in this small pub nestled between the bustle of
Clerk St. (at one point or another known as South Bridge, Nicholson, and Newington Road) and the peace of the meadows, a large park to the south of the University of Edinburgh. Some believe the giant figure carved into the Dorset hillside is a representation of the Dagda.

The pub satisfies the important prerequisites to make it onto this list: it has a kind and conscientious barman in Sandy to maintain real cask ales and it has an excellent selection of malt whiskies well organised into price points by different coloured ribbons. Additionally, they keep some stellar bottled beers from the continent in their fridges including Kristin's much-loved Krosovice dark.

All this AND a well-stocked jukebox ready to rock you in that classic pop/rock kinda way.

For Dr. Whisky's other picks for best pubs in Edinburgh, click HERE.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Best Pubs in Edinburgh, Part 3

Staying in the heart of the old town, I continue my list of the best places to drink and be merry in Edinburgh.

Happy Friday.

The Bow Bar
80 West Bow
Edinburgh, Scotland
0131 226 7667

Located on your way down Victoria Street (or West Bow), into what sometimes can feel like a different century, lies The Bow Bar. The five visiting cask ales are always impressive and well-kept and while the malt list is extensive (150 or so) it is also relatively expensive. Nonetheless, the malts of the month are worth trying, fairly priced, and the occasional splurge for a 27 year old indie bottling of Springbank, Clynelish, or Dallas Dhu are often worth it cuz the charming bar staff won't flinch and they will have the courtesy to serve it in the appropriate glassware.

I love the buzz in this place right after work, but be warned, it often closes quite early. Great mirrors and old adverts adorn the walls of this cozy, one-room pub. Worth checking out for the visiting ales alone, but whisky nerds will love to leaf through their malt menu.

For Dr. Whisky's other picks for best pubs in Edinburgh, click HERE.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Best Pubs in Edinburgh, Part 2

Sandy Bell's
25 Forrest Rd.
Edinburgh, Scotland
0131 225 1156

With customers from open til close (and often after... shhhh), Sandy Bell's is as welcoming as an old friend's hug. While the pints are oddly priced (£2.73 or something), there is always a malt of the month worth enjoying. The whisky selection is reasonable and reasonably priced and the best thing is that you will note that people actually are drinking the stuff. The people's dram as it should be, in the palms of the people. And the budget blend Black Bottle on optic for, I think, £1.75, is not to be missed.

Come before 9pm if you are scared of fiddles. Live folk music from different local boozehounds nightly. Once enjoyed,Sandy Bell's is a pub never forgotten and eternally missed.

For all of BEST OF EDINBURGH picks, click HERE.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Best Pubs in Edinburgh, Part 1

Continuing my list of the best pubs, bars, and whisky spots in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Royal Mile Whiskies

379 High St.
The Royal Mile
Edinburgh, Scotland
+44 (0) 131 225 3383

No, it isn't a pub or bar, but it is the best place to get whisky in Edinburgh, without any doubt, and creating your home bar is a great place to start. Lovely people who are always knowledgeable but never condescending or too whiskynerd-y, with some of the fairest prices to be found; they could be really taking the tourists to town when you consider where they are located. They sell excellent Scottish beers, too. And books. And haggis.

Say 'hi' to Stuart, Alex, Alaric, and whoever else is still in the shop and you are certain to be able to try before you buy. Be kind and you'll be treated kindly. They have been doing this since 1991 and have gone from success to success. They even bottle their own malts from time to time (Clynelish, Longmorn, Mortlach, to name a few).

They are always excited about "showing" you something and are determined to finding the right whisky for you, not the right whisky for their sales goals or profit margins. Not a whisky experience to miss while in Edinburgh and certainly worth popping in every time you walk past... if your mates/family/colleagues will let you.

Check out Royal Mile Whiskies in London, too.

For more of Dr. Whisky's picks of the best pubs in Edinburgh, click HERE.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Best Pubs in Edinburgh

Best bars in Edinburgh
So I think I will (finally?) make a list of what I think are the best bars or pubs in Edinburgh, Scotland. It's been asked of me by friends, family and Dr. Whisky readers on MANY occasions so maybe if I write it here I will never have to answer the question again!

Now remember, this probably means best whisky pub rather than best dance and/or cocktail bar. It is tourist season and Edinburgh can triple its population over the summer months. Here's a post to help you tourists avoid the wrong drinking holes. Life is to short to spend time at mediocre public houses.

Now, I like a pub that sells good cask ales and good whisky. Most of all, however, is that I resent being gouged for a dram of Scottish spirit IN Scotland. As a result you will not see any of the usual suspect whisky bars (you know who I mean) on this list because if a whisky drinker has to put up with piss-poor service and pay a minimum of £4 for a drop of the water of life, you know the bar doesn't give a shit about either water OR life.

So I tend to like what some would call "old man pubs": places that have 80/- shilling (Caledonian or other) on tap, at least one malt of the month/moment, veteran boozers holding up the bar, and patrons who don't look at you strange for expressing an opinion or two.

So HERE are Dr. Whisky's picks for the Best (whisky) Pubs in Edinburgh, or at least, the best places to drink whisky in Edinburgh.

One at a time. Possibly even daily!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Beer and Arithmetic

The Edinburgh ale Innis & Gunn has taken the back page advertisement on TimeOut magazine here in New York City. The ad is text heavy with some puzzling math in the final paragraph.

Like a math test, it reads:

"There's the 7 days it takes to top ferment the original Edinburgh Ale. Then 30 days spent maturing at a constant temperature in American White Oak barrels [...] Yet another 47 days pass in a marrying tun, where the subtle complext flavours from the wood harmonise and mellow and and natural carbonation takes place. 77 days in all."

7 + 30 + 47, right?

I guess if you've made it as far as the final paragraph you're too much of a booze nerd to really be trusted as a human calculator.

Too many numbers. Must have beer!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #305

A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16yo
Bourbon Whiskey
45.5% abv

$190 (USD)

As it is July 4, I thought I would taste an American whiskey. I really have not done the due exploration that this whole realm of spirit deserves. I hope to in time now that I am an Alien of Extraordinary Ability residing in the U S of A.

Yeah, America starts with the letter A (the theme of the past week of drams), and so does this bourbon. Distilled in 1974 at the now closed Michter's distillery in Schaefferstown, Virginia, and dedicated to one of the very few men named Adolf worthy of our admiration, Hirsch 16yo is, their website tells us, "the oldest available bourbon made from the time honored pot still tradition."

Quite a great history to the distillery and its craftsmen, too. Go read more HERE. Or HERE. And do NOT confuse this drop with Hirsch Canadian whisky. Speaking of which, why does the bourbon suck so bad at the LCBO? That's not very neighbourly, eh?

This drop is considered by many to be the epitome of bourbon and each remaining bottle represents a sort of time capsule of a craftsmanship in American Whiskey making that, arguably, remains unparalleled today. There have been three bottlings of this expressions (as well as a 20 year old version), and once this batch is gone, that'll be the end of this baby.

Happy Independence Day, or whatever one says on the 4th of July. Don't be stupid around fireworks or booze and motor vehicles.


Stewed fruits. Honey or no, maple syrup. Perhaps even maple itself, woody. Vanilla and oak with a pleasant bitterness like orange peel and rye.

Wow, strange, and somehow mouthwatering. Juicy like fruitella or something. Grapefruit, but the gentlest pink assortment. Crispy underbelly of sugary cookies. Slightly minty now. The flavours turn and turn in your mouth. Real flavourwheel stuff.


A warm and warming bowl of flavours in wonderful balance, a liquid whose aromas are synchro swimming in the pool of my perceptions. Really, quite beautiful. As with most bourbons, and maybe this what makes me a barley spirit addict, the palate pulls too much in the direction of oak and drying tannins. Here however the experience is saved by a gorgeous mouthfeel and flavour development combination that really softens that effect. I read a turn of phrase I really liked in another tasting note online, "explodes with the force of a mouses sneeze." While I never experienced an explosion as such, the flavours turned and moved against my senses like a wind-blown salsola/tumbleweed, that iconic image from a western movie. Now there's that bit of Americana I was digging for to close this paragraph.

Malt Mission #301
Malt Mission #302
Malt Mission #303
Malt Mission #304

Malt Mission HOME

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #304

An Cnoc 16yo
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
46% abv

An Cnoc? Never heard of it, you say. But this is the name that owners Inver House Distillers give to the single malt of Knockdhu near Huntly so as not to be confused with Diageo's Knockando in, well, Knockando. Never heard of that either? Well, I don't know what to tell you. Buy a book!

The first bottling of An Cnoc appeared in 1993 and was reintroduced in its current packaging ten years later, in 2003. This 16yo is a new addition to the range and was introduced in January 2008. It has matured in 100% ex-bourbon barrels and is un-chillfiltered.


Every type of apple you can think of, wonderfully fruity with a firm oakiness that includes all the vanilla and fudge one might expect from 16 years in american oak.

Chewy and full with citrus, apple juice and vanilla toffee. Slightly excited by the higher abv, and it is noticeable. A eucalyptus impression as well with a medium long finish of oak, lemon, and even a little toothpaste.


Very good clean whisky, as expected from this distillery. Something awakening, something revitalising about it. Rich and complex without the often overpowering element of sherry cask maturation. Should justifiably attract quite a few admirers.

Malt Mission #301
Malt Mission #302
Malt Mission #303
Malt Mission #305

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

Have had great Burns nights, St. Andrews days, and the unforgettable Norway Days, but in Canada, nothing really special happens on Canada Day. I guess that is why it is important that we make it a national holiday.

Yes, I am at work. No day off for this Canadian in New York City.

We are strange patriots, tho. Its as if we are almost proud of not being proud.

Or something.

And sure, Canada is in bed with the USA in more ways than most of us like to admit, but at least we're on top.

Looking forward to 4th of July. More whisky soon; go have a gin and tonic!

Happy Canada Day