Operating a Scotch bar in the heart of Scotch Country comes with certain expectations. For one, most newcomers to such an establishment presume they’ll encounter a wide array of liquids, including bottles that could surprise even the most jaded of whisky enthusiasts. For two, there’s a degree of knowledge and expertise that ought to go with each pour. Patrons are typically thirsty for more than just tasting notes, these days. It’s a daunting challenge to meet. Procuring the juice is actually the easy part.
At The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, it’s achieved with such unflinching confidence that they never hesitated to name their outpost, simply, SCOTCH. In other words, this isn’t just any Scotch bar…It is the Scotch bar. The credentials are apt: a library of over 500 labels, proudly positioned in floor-to-ceiling cubbies, so guests can get up close and personal with the collection without being separate by a bar. Bar Manager Cameron Ewen is almost always on-hand (and in full-kilt), dutifully delivering the goods along with all associated intel you could ever hope to attain.
And now, for the first time, the stately drinking parlor has launched an exclusive club in conjunction with The Macallan. Consisting of only 35 memberships at a time, Scotch Club (yes, they are very on-the-nose with naming here) is billed as an exclusive experience in which lucky patrons receive a personally engraved bottle of the storied single malt, which is kept under lock and key at the outpost.
Whenever they show up at the 5-star luxury hotel, Ewen will have a dram waiting for them in Lalique crystalware. It’s a special snifter purpose-built by the prestigious French atelier to accentuate the aromas of the matured malt. Ewen then fills out the experience by providing any and all questions one might have when it comes to production at The Macallan, and its most sought after expressions.
The Balmoral accepted only a dozen members to Scotch Club this summer. But the waitlist for the remaining 23 spots are now open. A 12-month membership will set you back $833, which is quite reasonable when you consider it comes with a bottle of The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old. That particular expression typically retails in the US for around $350. If you’re not concerned with anything reasonable, however, consider applying for top-level status. It’ll cost you $24,291 (£17,700) and you’ll receive a bottle of limited edition 40-year-old from the esteemed Macallan “Red Collection.”
Additional perks include an annual, two-hour whisky tasting for two—complimentary; advance invites to whisky masterclasses, when offered; and special rates on suites at The Balmoral. Just a little bit more about that last part. The stunning nature of a luxury experience here hardly ends at SCOTCH. Well-appointed lodging affords guests to Edinburgh some of the choicest views of the surrounding cityscape. The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, Arthur’s Seat are but a few of the landmarks observable in top-level suites. All have been completely renovated within the past 5 years. Rates start at $600 per night.
For those that crave a taste of something even loftier, The Balmoral also boasts two of the largest guest rooms in all of Scotland. The Glamis Suite is a 1,100 square feet ode to elegance, featuring three bedrooms, marbled baths, 24-hour concierge and private bar and parlor, starting at $5000 per night. Not to be outdone, the Scone & Crombie Suite occupies just over 2,400 square feet. It holds bespoke furnishings and tapestry style wallpaper befitting a royal chamber. At $8,000 per night, it’s an ideal setting for folks who are looking to unwind with an impossibly precious dram of, say, 50-year-old single malt. Thankfully, Ewen has got some on hold for you down in SCOTCH. And he’ll even let you take a pour back up to your room with you.