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The best whisky bars in Edinburgh: 15 to try

Scotland’s national drink flows through the streets of its historic capital city, with both modern and traditional whisky bars offering a warm Edinburgh welcome. Peter Ranscombe recommends the best places to enjoy a dram or two.

While Speyside or Islay will quite rightly lay claim to being the beating heart of Scotland’s whisky industry, Edinburgh could make a great case for being its soul. Its harbour at Leith once imported the Sherry casks that are so essential to many Scotch whisky labels, and then exported bottle after bottle of Scotland’s national drink to all corners of the globe.

Today, Edinburgh is not only Scotland’s capital city but is also home to the world-famous Fringe, a month-long gathering of actors, comedians and musicians from around the planet. It envelopes every nook and cranny of the city during August. Welcoming that number of visitors is akin to hosting the Olympic Games or World Cup every single year.

Yet there’s so much more to Edinburgh than its summer festivals. Together, its medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town form a World Heritage Site, while the influx of year-round guests supports five Michelin-starred restaurants, belying the city’s small size.
That fusion of curious visitors and discerning locals fuels the vibrant whisky scene in ‘Auld Reekie’. It now encompasses modern bars serving new wave whiskies through to traditional boozers boasting extensive lists. So whether you’re a beginner or an expert, Edinburgh is an essential stop on your whisky journey.

Amber Whisky Bar

Bartender at Amber Whisky Bar

Tucked away in a corner of the Scotch Whisky Experience, next to Amber Restaurant, this bar boasts more than 450 bottles. What’s even more impressive than the selection though is the knowledge and patience of its staff, guiding tourists and locals alike on a journey through Scotland’s whisky regions and localities. The Scotch Whisky Experience itself is a visitors’ centre built in an old school, on the final approach to Edinburgh Castle, and displays what’s reputed to be the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky.

  • 354 Castlehill, EH1 2NE
  • +44 (0)131 220 0441

Holyrood Distillery

Hollyrood Distillery

For a taste of whiskies from Scotland’s newer distilleries – including Nc’Nean, Kilchoman, and Kingsbarns – head to Holyrood Distillery, based in a converted railway engine shed in the shadow of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat. As well as trying Holyrood’s own whiskies, you can sample the distillery’s gin, along with mother’s ruin from Electric Spirit Co and Port of Leith Distillery. The distillery’s bar also offers a little-seen view into the picturesque slopes of neighbouring Holyrood Park.

  • 19 St Leonard’s Lane, EH8 9SH
  • +44 (0)131 285 8977

Johnnie Walker Princes Street 

Johnnie Walker Princes Street

Johnnie Walker has turned a former department store on Princes Street into the flagship visitors centre for the world’s biggest Scotch whisky brand. Think the Guinness brewery in Dublin, but with less stout and more visual clout, plus panoramic views of Edinburgh Castle and the city’s skyline from the 1820 Rooftop Bar, and classy brushed metal and amber lighting in the Explorers’ Bothy, which boasts everything from big brands to single casks. Once the new kid on the whisky block, it’s now an established part of Edinburgh’s drinks scene.

  • 145 Princes Street, EH2 4BL
  • +44 (0)131 376 9494

Panda & Sons

Panda and Sons pub red front

Scotch is about so much more than a simple dram in isolation. Whisky cocktails are an essential part of Edinburgh’s bar scene, and aficionados are spoiled for choice for venues. Enter Panda & Sons through a barber’s shop on Queen Street and descend the stairs to find a 1930s speakeasy. Equally thrilling libations are also served at Mothership’s trio of bars, with Bramble and Lucky Liquor in the city centre and The Last Word Cocktail Saloon down the hill in Stockbridge.

  • 79 Queen Street, EH2 4NF
  • +44 (0)131 220 0443

Port of Leith Distillery

Port of Leith Distillery Bar

Perched at the top of the UK’s first vertical distillery, Port of Leith’s bar offers jaw-dropping views up and down the Firth of Forth, and back into Edinburgh. Owners Ian Stirling and Paddy Fletcher scoured the globe to assemble what they believe is the world’s largest collection of ‘new wave’ or ‘craft’ whiskies, and – going by the number of bottles on the gantry – they may well be right. For such a new venue, the food is really impressive. Don’t miss its legendary single grain Table Whisky either.

  • 11 Whisky Quay, EH6 6FH
  • +44 (0)131 600 0765


A kilted man fetches a bottle of whisky for a guest at Scotch bar at The Balmoral hotel

The whisky wall at Scotch bar at The Balmoral hotel

The place to pick to impress the in-laws. The Balmoral Hotel’s Scotch bar is decked out in tasteful tartan and overstuffed armchairs, all surrounded by library shelf after library shelf full of whisky. The most spectacular bottles are even kept behind bars. The kilted staff will guide you through the extensive range and will climb the ladders and stools to retrieve bottles from the highest shelves, adding a bit of theatre to the occasion. Check out other whisky hotels around Scotland.

  • 1 Princes Street, EH2 2EQ
  • +44 (0)131 556 2414

Teuchters Bar

Tecchters pub interior

Hidden away on William Street in the West End, Teuchters is mobbed when the Six Nations is in town but, when rugby fans aren’t slowly winding their way to Murrayfield, it offers an ideal spot to enjoy a whisky and a beer chaser – or a ‘hauf an’ a hauf’ as it’s known in Edinburgh. Its sister pub, Teuchters Landing in Leith, was once the waiting room for the steamboat to Aberdeen and now boasts a large beer garden and pontoon.

  • 26 William Street, EH3 7NH
  • +44 (0)131 225 2973

The Albanach

A wooden bar in the Albanach pub

Don’t be put off by the Albanach being part of the Belhaven pub chain – the bar on the Royal Mile oozes character and atmosphere and is an ideal spot to become better acquainted with Scotland’s national drink. If you can, grab one of the tables at the back, with a view looking out from the New Town across to the Old Town. Its location means it’s extremely popular, especially in August during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.

  • 197 High Street, EH1 1PE
  • +44 (0)131 220 5277

The Black Cat

The Black Cat

Rose Street might have a reputation as Edinburgh’s equivalent of Dublin’s Temple Bar for stag and hen parties, but The Black Cat proves there’s real whisky expertise on the cobbled lane too. Small but perfectly formed, The Black Cat is an ‘Ardbeg embassy’, and so stocks an exciting selection of special-edition peated malts from the Islay distillery. What’s equally impressive is its new and fast-growing range of Scotch from independent bottlers, which is a great way to explore unique casks from lesser-known distilleries.

  • 168 Rose Street, EH2 4BA
  • +44 (0)131 225 33491

The Bon Vivant

The Bon Vivant Edinburgh

Fancy some Scottish tapas to accompany your whisky? Then The Bon Vivant on the New Town’s cobbled Thistle Street is the place to go. Haggis bon bons, venison parcels, and mushroom truffle rolls are paired with page after page of whisky choices. The Bon Vivant’s Companion next door is one of my favourite independent bottle shops, selling wines and whiskies to take home. If you opt for The Devil’s Advocate, The Bon Vivant’s sister outlet in the Old Town, then book ahead as it’s all too easy for staff to forget about walk-in customers.

  • 55 Thistle Street, EH2 1DY
  • +44 (0)131 225 3275

The Bow Bar

The Bow Bar

It might be best known for its selection of beers – both traditional cask ales and funkier craft kegs – but The Bow Bar is also a whisky institution. Nestled next to the Old Town’s picturesque split-level Victoria Street, the small-but-perfectly-formed pub is in the heart of the action for the Fringe, and gives visitors a feel for a classic Scottish bar. Its sister outlets – Cloisters Bar on the edge of The Meadows and The Stockbridge Tap down in, erm, Stockbridge – aren’t too shabby either for beers or whiskies.

  • 80 West Bow, EH1 2HH
  • +44 (0)131 226 7667

The Canny Man’s

Canny Mans pub

‘Eclectic’ doesn’t do The Canny Man’s justice as a description. Its walls are adorned with everything from dolls to typewriters, while musical instruments and bikes are suspended from its ceiling. That same eccentricity in its decor thankfully extends to its whisky selection too, with more than 240 examples on its ‘malt list’ from around Scotland. Its open-top Danish sandwiches are second to none, and worth the journey up the hill from the city centre to leafy Morningside on their own.

  • 237 Morningside Road, EH10 4QU
  • +44 (0)131 447 1484

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was once a members-only institution, but now non-members can enjoy a dram and a meal in its Kaleidoscope Bar on Queen Street. The society buys single casks, which are identified by numbers, rather than the names of the distilleries – although several websites now offer clues. Its legendary tasting notes are guaranteed to raise a giggle, while its tapas and whisky matching is great fun. Members can also enjoy food and drink at The Vaults in Leith.

  • 28 Queen Street, EH2 1JX
  • +44 (0)131 220 2044

The Tryst

The Tryst Edinburgh

Forget baked potatoes and cold pizza slices; the Bonnie & Wild food hall within the £1 billion St James Quarter shopping centre showcases the best Scotland has to offer – including its whiskies. A total of 11 top restaurants from around the country are running stalls in the food hall. The whisky list has real credibility too, thanks to drinks merchant Inverarity Morton. For a more intimate dram, head for The Tryst instead of the main Hauf & Howff or Dookit bars.

  • Bonnie & Wild, Fourth Floor, St James Quarter, 415-417 St James Crescent, EH1 3AE
  • +44 (0)131 560 1800

Whiski Rooms

Whiskiu Rooms shop front

Perched on The Mound – one of the streets linking Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town – Whiski Rooms combines a bar with a restaurant and a shop next door to one another. Start your journey in the bottle shop before sneaking downstairs to the bar and grabbing a window seat to enjoy views over the New Town as you nurse your dram. The smell of the food will be enough to tempt you to book a table in the restaurant too.

  • 4-7 North Bank Street, EH1 2LP
  • +44 (0)131 225 7224

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