The crew at Highland Park distillery
The allure of Scottish whisky touring has always been its old-school charm: windswept moors, tartan-draped country inns, white-whiskered gents nosing tumblers by the fireplace. But among the peat, plaid and pomp that visitors crave is a new-school Scotch scene, replete with wax-moustache mixologists, modern art collaborations and food and whisky pairings that break all the rules. Here’s a sample of the best of old and new.
Old School: Highland Park, Kirkwall
Located in the craggy Orkney Islands’ capital, Highland Park, famed for its single malt, embodies the traditional romance of its craft. Founded in 1798, this distillery makes whisky the way it always has. Push chariots distribute soaked barley on the malting floor; grains are turned by hand and then smoked over a peat fire to produce the Scotch’s signature smoky-sweet flavour. Guests can try their hand at turning, taste freshly toasted grains, tour the cask cellar and sample the final product in the tasting room. (Sign up for the Connoisseur or Magnus Eunson Tour to sip some of the older single malts.) Well worth the detour from the mainland, a visit to Scotland’s most northerly distillery is a purist’s whisky experience.
New School: Bramble Bar, Edinburgh
In keeping with the revival of the speakeasy, Bramble Bar is a place for those in the know. An unmarked door on Queen Street leads to a low-lit subterranean hideaway containing all manner of secluded nooks for its clientele of hip, young Edinbronians. The bar specializes in handcrafted whisky cocktails, particularly old-fashioneds, which mixologists concoct so many ways that the one drink could have its own menu. Go for the Affinity Cocktail, an old-fashioned made with Glenmorangie 10-year-old and Byrrh. Barrel aged, the cocktail is bottled to order and wax sealed in a personalized glass mickey. Once it’s poured into a tumbler over ice with a twist of orange, its presentation is matched only by its perfectly balanced flavour.