Sunday, August 12, 2007

Edinburgh and the Whisky Fringe

Whisky Fringe EdinburghWhisky Fringe 2007
August 18 and 19, 2007
Mansfield Traquair

Another opportunity to be back in Edinburgh and I couldn't be more excited for next weekend. I missed Royal Mile Whiskies' amazing Whisky Fringe last year and can't wait to meet great whiskies and great people in a house of God again. Used to live there, too, so it will be great to see old faces and places.

Edinburgh is a town blessed with a stink of history that wafts(sometimes literally) over its streets. From the odours of brewing to the stenches of piss, Edinburgh remains Auld Reekie.

Beer and whisky have always had a home in Edinburgh(and Leith). The hard water produced unique drinks and folks found that beer in Edinburgh took less time to produce. The great mix in Old Edinburgh of richer and poorer made the city very unique (at least until 1767 when James Craig designed a 'New Town' to accommodate the professionals of the capital). As soon as people started brewing their own beer they began to sell it in pubs and Inns up and down the Royal Mile. Adam Smith, David Hume, Robbie Burns, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson (among others) all enjoyed the 'dark and heavy', 'nappy', or 'small ale' in these establishments. Uisgebeatha, too, no doubt.

Edinburgh has an abundance of great pubs and restaurants that can be enjoyed in comfort all year round... well, at least for 10 months of the year. Around the Edinburgh Festival(an array of different festivals that all fall under this title) in August and the delights of a gorgeous city in lights around Christmas and Hogmanay, Edinburgh's population of 500,000ish swells to THREE TIMES that number.

But you can always find a lovely pub, a place of community and relaxation, of laughs and conversation, good ales and great spirits. In choosing your watering hole, always follow the advice beautifully articulated by Ian Rankin, author of the Inspector Rebus Edinburgh-based crime novels: "Never drink in a bar with bouncers on the door. If they're expecting trouble, trouble is probably on its way."

One of my favourites that I am really looking forward to visiting is Bennets Bar which survived the many renovations of the 1970s, "the decade taste forgot," with its long bar complete with dimples from years of resting canes, its Edwardian decor, ornate polished wood fixtures and tiles, and of course, its splendid array of single malt whiskies. Sure, many bars have an extensive whisky list, but Bennets has always made that list intentionally affordable, although that has changed (only slightly) in recent years. The other stellar whisky-related feature is the frosted glass window in the front that reads the name of what was effectively the first blended whisky brand, Andrew Ushers Old Vatted Glenlivet. And there is something about the way they serve or the temperature of their 80/- that makes it go down like no other... well, maybe Port o Leith down on Constitution St.

Gets me drooling right now.

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