Often overlooked by locals and whisky enthusiasts, the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh houses the world’s largest collection of Scotch and is well worth a visit
A visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience and the world’s largest collection of Scotch
At the very top of the Royal Mile, just next to Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade, the Scotch Whisky Experience (SWE) is often overlooked by locals and whisky enthusiasts, who consider it a bit of a tourist trap. Those who succumb to such lazy thinking are missing a trick because it has much to offer, even if you consider yourself a whisky connoisseur.
Established in 1988 and owned by member whisky brands, it was rebranded as the Scotch Whisky Experience in 2006 and has become one of Scotland’s most successful visitor attractions, welcoming 325,000 visitors last year. For many of these visitors this might be the closest thing they experience to a distillery, so it’s helpful that the SWE does a sterling job of explaining the complex nature of whisky distillation, while their genuinely passionate and knowledgeable tour guides breathe life into the story of Scotch whisky.
A huge number of SWE tour guides have gone on to work in the whisky industry in other capacities; there are, for instance, countless brand ambassadors dotted around the globe who started their whisky careers there while studying in Edinburgh. One former student employee is Angus Robertson MP, the SNP leader at Westminster, while the SWE’s marketing manager Julie Trevisan-Hunter started work there while a languages student and went on to become a ‘Master of the Quaich’ in 2016.
The tour experience begins with a ‘ Disney Land’-esque barrel ride which explains how single malt whisky is made (available in 18 languages), followed by a fantastic 180 degree video tour of Scotland and a brilliant 3D (hologram) explanation of the art of making blended whisky. While watching the film, featuring stunning sweeping landscapes of Scotland’s whisky-producing regions, you are encouraged to use a scratch and sniff card to experience the flavours and aromas of regional whiskies.
You finally get to sample a dram in the SWE’s ‘crown jewel’, the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection. They’ve definitely saved the best till last.
The world’s largest collection of Scotch, the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection, is housed in a beautiful display room and consists of 3,384 unique bottles of whisky. It took Brazilian businessman Claive Vidiz 35 years to amass the collection before, in 2008, he decided that since he was getting older it was time for it to return home to Scotland. There is a Brazilian expression, ‘the good son returns home’, which is what Claive did when he sold his collection to Diageo for an undisclosed sum. One of the caveats in the sale stipulated that the collection must be kept together and must be on show to the public.
The collection started with just six bottles. Vidiz had a friend and business associate from Scotland who was going to visit him in Brazil, so Vidiz asked his friend to bring him some whisky from Duty Free. The friend brought him six bottles of whisky and explained the rudiments of Scotch to him – Vidiz immediately caught the bug, and after that he sought out bottles that he didn’t have in his collection.
I was fortunate to meet Claive when he visited Edinburgh with his son earlier this year, only his second visit to Scotland (the first was when the collection opened in 2009). A true gentleman, it was clear that he is phenomenally proud of having his collection on show in Edinburgh. Everything he wished for, for the collection, has been achieved. These fantastic bottles of history will be on show indefinitely for future generations to see, while Vidiz has definitively left his mark on the world of Scotch whisky. If you have not been to the Scotch Whisky Experience then I would definitely recommend a visit.
‘The world’s largest collection of Scotch consists of 3,384 bottles’ Below: Brazilian businessman and collector of the world’s largest collection of Scotch, Claive Vidiz.
WORDS BLAIR BOWMAN