HID­DEN GEM

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

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

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

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