It’s Tartan Week! A Guide to the Six Rarest Scottish Whiskies

 

The Scots will always be given a special welcome in New York City – because let’s face it, how could we not love a people whose gents can rock a skirt while drinking us all under the bloody table?

So, as 2017’s New York Tartan Week once again sees the our Scottish friends throwing parties all over town (the Tartan Day Parade is Saturday, the 8th, this year lorded over by Sons of Anarchy star Tommy Flanagan; the official Tartan Day is tomorrow, the 6th), we consider one of our favorite subjects: whisky. After all, as we have come to know, a rare, exquisite Scotch, after a few sips, may actually bring on various stages of epiphany.

Here is our insider guide to the very best.

 


Highland Park 40 Year Old

Striking masculine design of both box and bottle, the latter adorned with a silver amulet, to decidedly elegant effect. Smokey, fruity and rich, with prominent tasting notes of sherry, chocolate and anise and a distinctly oaky finish.
Estimated price: $2,750

Scotch Whisky highlandpark40yearold


Leidag 42 Year Old Dúsgadh

Tobacco, leather, coal on the nose—so it’s particularly, uniquely stimulating to the senses. Indeed, you’ll get cinnamon, honey and ginger on the palette, with a long, dry finish. Different.
Estmated price: $3,800

Scottish Whisky Ledaig


The Macallan M 1824 Series

You know that when a distiller describes the nose with words like “velvet sateen,” you’re about to experience something ethereally life-altering. A palette of rich wood spices, cedar and violets leads to a long, rapturous finish. The crystal decanter is a work of art—much like what it holds.
Estimated price: $3,900

Scottish Whisky Macallan M m_gallery_06


The Last Drop 50 Year Old

It won’t win any prizes for bottle design. But the long maturation in sherry casks produces an incredibly refined smoothness. Just 1,347 bottles were made; and it’s meant for an exceptionally proficient palette, with its unusual pomegranate and cilantro nose, and tasting notes of malt, molasses and, of course, sherry.
Estimated price: $4,000

Scottish Whisky Last Drop tld-50-year-old-whisky


The Balvenie 40 Year Old Single Malt

Smokey but sweet, it has hints of honey and spice. Aged in both bourbon and sherry casks. Complex and creamy, with tasting notes of vanilla oak, cinnamon and nutmeg. There are supposedly only 150 bottles in the world, so figure at least $1,500 of the pricetag is pure bragging rights.
Estimated price: $4,500

Scotch Whisky Balvenie 40 image


The Glenfarclas 60 Year Old (Cask 1672)

Considered a pinnacle, and priced quite accordingly. Notes of espresso, treacle and complex spices. Aged in a single sherry cask. For aesthetes, an absolutely stunning bottle design.
Estimated price: $17,000

Scotch Whisky Glenfarclas60YOCloseUp-big


Post Holiday Travel: Drinking Scotch in Edinburgh

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

For total immersion in the culture of Scottish whisky, this exclusive international club sources the finest and the rarest, which can be sipped in its elegant Members’ Rooms – as well as in one of its partner bars from Glasgow to London. Or just pop in to The Dining Room at 28 Queen Street, its highly regarded restaurant (open to non-members), where you can pair the best Scotch with lobster canneloni and twice baked Stilton soufflé.

The Balmoral Hotel

The veritable flagship of the incomparable Rocco Forte hotels group, The Balmoral has hosted everyone from The Stones to Sean Connery to J.K. Rowling. The best rooms have glorious views over Princes Street Gardens to the castle. But you’ll want to spend most of your time settled into a plush sofa in Scotch, the hotel’s classy, dedicated whisky bar with more than 500 on offer.

The-Balmoral-Edinburgh-Whisky-Ambassador-at-Scotch

 

 

Scotland Now Has Its Very Own ‘Macbeth’ Tour

Move over, Sex & The City tours. (Seriously, do those things still exist?) Scotland is counting on enough rabid fans of William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth that it has created a tour of locales pertinent to the book in attempt to boost tourism. 

As the UK’s Telegraph reports, Macbeth was a real-life Scottish king (also known as the Thrane Of Glamis) who reigned from 1040 to 1057 and lived in castles throughout the country. But unlike our conceptions of tourist-trap-style tours which take place on double decker buses, this Shakespeare tour will be for individual motorists.

The Scotland Herald describes the locations on the tour to include "Glamis, Lumphanan, a village in Aberdeenshire where Macbeth was killed in battle in 1047, and Cairn O’Mount, Aberdeenshire, where Macbeth took his supporters en route to Lumphanan."  

The tour also hopes to separate facts from fiction, as some Scots are apparently butthurt by the way Macbeth was misportrayed in the Shakespearean play. Oh, those Europeans!  

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

This Is New Scottish Cuisine

If you read Rocky Casale’s recent BlackBook story, “The Mists Lift On a Burgeoning Scottish Culinary Landscape,” you know that Scottish chefs have finally put haggis behind them, instead focusing on the amazing bounty of meat, fish, and vegetables available in their fertile country. I happened to edit that story right before I took a trip to Edinburgh with my wife, so I decided to check out one of the restaurants it featured, The Kitchin, a favorite of author Irvine Welsh along with a few anonymous Michelin Guide agents. It was my wife’s birthday, and I wanted to take her somewhere special. I can’t pat myself on the back enough for that one, because The Kitchin was amazing, one of the best restaurant meals of our lives. But in addition to our precious little memories, the restaurant was a perfect example of the latest thinking in upscale Scottish cuisine. We decided to put our trust in Tom Kitchin and ordered the "Chef’s Land & Sea Surprise" tasting menu (I was too cheap/poor to do the wine pairings, but we had a great, semi-affordable bottle all the same). It was the right call, as we swooned over all seven courses. On the way out, they gave us a copy of the menu to take with us, rolled up and tied with a ribbon. So, for those of you wondering what, exactly, modern Scottish cuisine is, read on. (And for those who can’t make it to Scotland, I recommend Highlands on West 10th Street in New York for tasty Scottish food.)

Chef’s Land and Sea Surprise

Tasting Menu @ The Kitchin

Tuesday, 28th August 2012

Appetiser (sic)

Jellied chicken consommé with a leek cream, crispy bacon, and croutons.

Mackerel

Tartare of mackerel from St. Abbs Head* served with a Newhaven crab cream, cucumber, and capers.

Razor Clams (Spoots)**

Razor clams from Arisaig, cooked to order and served with diced vegetables, chorizo, and lemon confit.

Pig’s Head & Scallop***

Boned and rolled pig’s head, served with seared hand-dived**** Orkney scallop and a crispy ear salad.

Hake

Seared fillet of North Sea hake served with a red pepper piperade***** and confit garlic.

Rabbit

Saddle of rabbit from Burnside Farm stuffed with spinach, served with sautéed artichoke and a ragout of rabbit kidneys.

Strawberry & Crowdie******

Millefeuille of Blacketyside Farm strawberries served with Highland crowdie mousse, pistachio, and strawberry sorbet.

* St. Abbs Head is a National Nature Reserve not far from Edinburgh, and it looks like a very pretty place, at least when the sun is shining.

** Ha ha, spoots. I like saying the word spoots. Try it. Just turn to whoever is sitting next to you right now and say "spoots" and nothing else.

***Our favorite dish of the meal. No, it didn’t look like a pig’s head, the meat was shaped into a hockey puck. A delicious, pink-hued hockey puck.

****Hand-dived? What a job. Scottish scallop diver. Let’s get one to do a Reddit AMA.

*****Maybe you knew what a piperade was, but I had to look it up. It’s a Basque dish popular in France made with onion, green peppers, tomatoes, and Espelette pepper. And Espelette peppers are a type of chili pepper cultivated in the Pyrenees.

******Crowdie is Scottish cream cheese. Gimme a bagel with a schmear of crowdie. 

The Mists Lift On A Burgeoning Scottish Culinary Landscape

Haggis has probably done more damage to Scotland’s culinary reputation than either deserves. But to dismiss a country for a single dish is poppycock. Gastronomes and intrepid travelers have long been aware that the country’s food and drink scene transcends offal (though even haggis is staging a comeback), but a crop of well-established restaurants is beating the drum loudly these days and drawing attention to the copious pantry of the Scottish moors.

Each year, Edinburgh’s gentrifying coastal district, Leith, seems to add another Michelin star to its roster. Farm-to-table eateries like Martin Wishart and Plumed Horse (with a star each) are booked out for weeks at a time. But the crown jewel remains The Kitchin. It was, after all, Tom Kitchin and his wife Michaela who forged the way for food and wine excellence in Edinburgh back in 2006, when they opened their auspiciously eponymously named restaurant Kitchin. And it’s no surprise that a reservation here is still the most coveted in the capital. Chef Kitchin is emphatic about the provenance of his ingredients, so much so that he actually presents you with a map of Scotland that details where they are from: scallops from the Orkney Isles; mushrooms and berries from around Pitlochry; langoustines

and winkles pulled from the waters near Mull. His small tableside geography lesson adds a delightful dimension to the land and sea menu that features dozens of bright, tangy sauces to accompany a seemingly endless supply of lamb, venison, and razor clams that find their way to the table. The restaurant’s interior—a long sunken dining room and glass– enclosed, quay-facing bar and lounge—was revamped this year in shades of dark green and heather, and Tim and his wife are releasing before Christmas their second cookbook, Kitchin Suppers, in the U.S.

To visit Scotland and only see its cities is to miss the point. A good place to begin is Oban, the gateway to the Scottish Isles, three hours from Glasgow by train. Today its name is inseparable with the nearly 300-year-old Oban Scotch whisky distillery that sits on the port in the middle of town. There is a busy harbor where yachts are moored in pretty rows, and ferries chug in and out, shuttling people between islands. The Oban distillery is the town’s main attraction, and the £7 tours explaining how barley becomes golden scotch are fascinating. You could spend half a day here learning about Oban’s tasting notes; the 18-year-old is mildly smokey, and tastes of orange peels and honey. Better yet, stick around the gift shop and sample some of the vintages at the distillery’s tasting room. Then stumble five minutes uphill to Dungallan Country House, a small B&B tucked away in woodland overlooking Oban Bay. The Victorian stone house recalls a tiny castle, and its owners, Mike and Marion Stevenson-Coates, who entertain behind their bar, make the stay here worth every cent.

A five–hour drive north brings you to the sparsely populated Isle of Skye where a well of gastronomical talent exists in a setting that recalls Avatar but with kilts. Much like Oban, the Talisker distillery is a big draw with its How It’s Made tour, chased by a tasting of rare vintages. This year, the company is releasing its 35-year-old vintage single malt. There’s a good selection of hotels and private cottage rentals on Skye, but the finest of the lot is Kinloch Lodge. Each room has a beautiful view of the serene private lake, and you can attend one of Claire Macdonald’s famous cooking classes. Macdonald is an award–winning self-taught cook and food writer who teaches wildly popular quintessential Scottish cooking at the lodge. If her classes are booked, try Marcello Tully’s tasting menu at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s like a tour of the island: soft lamb, sweet langoustines, and the freshest vegetables, all found close to home and paired with tipples like Bollinger Special Cuvée. There’s not a wee bit o’ haggis in sight. 

Five Days in Edinburgh

We were on vacation in Edinburgh, Scotland last month, and it was a blast. Being there really brought home the fact that Edinburgh is truly Britain’s second city of culture. There’s so much history, art, music, and, oh yeah, whisky, that we barely scratched the surface after five days, yet we did so many fun things while we were there. Here are few highlights from a week of imposing castles, cobblestone streets, cozy pubs, and lots of beer. 

 
Birthday Blast
I was there with my wife, Jenn, to celebrate her birthday. We picked Edinburgh somewhat randomly: neither of us had ever been, and we like fun towns with good nightlife. So after an uneventful flight on KLM, we were ensconced in the back of one of those uniquely British taxis speeding into Edinburgh proper.  The weather was cool and wet, and we were ready to be Scottish for a week. 
 
View from Hotel of Edinburgh Castle
 
The Hotel
There are many nice hotels in Edinburgh, and we stayed in one of them: The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh. It recently emerged from a major renovation, and it’s as spiffy as they come. We could have stayed in a cute B&B in some poorly-plumbed  17th century building in the old town, but we figured we’d be so deeply immersed in history while sightseeing that we’d be glad for the modernity when it came time for bathing and sleeping. 
 
And modern it is. The Sheraton Grand’s lobby, restaurant, and common areas are posh, elegant, and seemingly designed for discerning business travelers, the kind of well-dressed people you see in in-flight magazines carrying briefcases and chuckling over some classy joke. Dark wood walls, polished chrome, and a massive old black-and-white photo mural of Edinburgh Castle create a welcoming atmosphere for guests arriving from the four corners of the earth. It’s dignified. 
 
The guest rooms, on the other hand, are party-ready. You’ll find all the amenities present in any high-end hotel, of course: plush bathrobes, well-stocked mini-bar, writing desk, sitting area, etc. There’s a TV, and do I really need to mention that it’s a high-definition flat-screen TV? Of course it is. What contemporary hotel has old-fashioned tube TVs these days? In any case, we used our TV to watch a funny British show called Balls of Steel.
 
Room 529, which I could easily remember thanks to an old Eddie Murphy skit about Chinese food, was a lot of fun. Not only did it have a view of the castle (see above), it had a couple of amenities that we fooled around with for longer than we should have. The lights, for example. There’s regular white light, of course, for dressing, reading, and double checking your dinner reservation. But there’s also colored light, for those nights that call for a backdrop of pink, blue, red, violet, or green. You cycle through all the colors until you find the one that suits your mood. Even the bathroom had its Technicolor dream coat. And with the interior lights on, the bathroom became a lamp of its own, since it’s essentially a frosted glass box located within the guest room itself. Turn on the blue light in the bathroom, and the whole room glows blue. Everything else in the room was of high quality too—nice big bed, more pillows than any human could reasonably need—but it’s time to go see the city. 
 
First Impressions
We asked the front desk agent to recommend a casual pub for beers and a bite. The suggestion: The Red Squirrel on Lothian Road, pretty much across the street from the Sheraton Grand. It’s a laidback, modern pub filled with well-dressed workers from nearby office buildings. Jenn and I shared a cutting board of assorted cheeses and charcuterie along with a pair of locally-brewed beers, and we liked it.
 
About Those Beers
I know that beer is enjoyed all around the world, but I expected Scotland to be Scotch-land, with everybody sitting next to roaring fires sipping some ancient single malt while swapping stories of the latest fox hunt.  But Edinburgh’s like New York in that they’re crazy for craft beers these days. There are many great beers brewed within a couple of hours of town, and the Red Squirrel had a couple dozen of them on draft, including a few cask ales. Most other bars we visited (particularly BrewDog on Cowgate) had an impressive selection of great, delicious, innovative, and just plain weird beers. 
 
Spa Time
Did I mention that we were exhausted from our overnight flight? We were, so much so that when we kipped down after hitting some bar I can’t remember on the Royal Mile, we slept for damn near 11 hours, which made us 15 minutes late for Jenn’s massage appointment at the hotel’s One Spa. Even though it was her birthday, they wouldn’t budge on that, saying, not unreasonably, that if they gave her extra time at the end, it wouldn’t be fair to the other clients lined up that day, as if we cared about them. But in any case Jenn had her abbreviated spa treatment and reported that it was very good and that the spa was lovely. While she was getting kneaded and prodded and pampered, I took a stroll down the street to buy some provisions (beer, seltzer, “biscuits,” “crisps”) from the local shop. I went to a discount store called Pound Stretcher, as well as the grocery store Sainsbury’s, and dropped a few quid on essentials. I always enjoy going to the local grocery store whenever I travel somewhere. It feels like a more accurate picture of what life is like there than some tourist site. 
 
Shopping
I don’t love clothes shopping, even for myself, but it was Jenn’s birthday, so we wandered over to Princes Street and into a shop called House of Fraser, where she found a leather jacket and a dress that she loved. Later that week I ran out of clean clothes, so instead of incurring laundry charges, I bought a shirt from H&M. I wanted to get something from TopShop, but apparently F/W 2012 is all about tacky sweaters, and I can’t get into the Huckstable look. 
 
More Spa Time
Jenn may have had a proper massage, but we both had passes to visit the Hydropool and Thermal Suite on the top floor, which we did after shopping. The Thermal Suite is a collection of about a dozen different saunas (hamman, rock sauna, bio sauna, etc.), showers, and steam rooms, and you put on your bathing suit and guide yourself through them all, in order. And so we did, availing ourselves of everything except the part where you’re supposed to rub crushed ice on your body. In the process, I discovered that I really don’t like aromatherapy. What’s the point? It reminds me of incense in church, which reminds me of church. But everything else was great. The best part of the Thermal Suite experience comes last: the Hydropool. The Hydropool is a big rooftop swimming pool/hot tub where you sit back and relax on subaquatic chaise lounges while mineral water bubbles around you and you look up at the clouds and think about how nice this all is and you should do things like this more often and if only you had one of these things to use every night you’d be the mellowest person. Stress doesn’t have a chance against the Hydropool. Anxiety drowns like a wharf rat, leaving you relaxed and happy. You’d be daft to stay at the Sheraton Grand and not take a dip. 
 
White Hart Pub
 
More Beer, Not Much Food
It was Monday, and, strangely, most fancy restaurants in Edinburgh were closed, so we decided to save Jenn’s official birthday dinner for Tuesday night and keep it casual with beers and snacks. The beers were easy. We found our way to BrewDog, a "post-punk apocalyptic motherfu*ker of a craft brewery," which came at the recommendation of the beer guy at The Ploughman back home in Brooklyn. BrewDog is a paradise for beer geeks, and I had a pint of Never Mind the Anabolics. After that we moved on to a much older pub, the White Hart (above), a 16th Century (!) pub located on the Grassmarket, where public hangings once took place. We had waited too long to order food (kitchens close mighty early in these parts) so we enjoyed a packet of chips, er, crisps with our beers before heading back to the hotel and ordering room service. A man and woman were having a heart-to-heart talk at the bar while we were there. As we left, the woman was in tears. 
 
Scotch Whisky Experience
 
Experiencing The Scotch Whisky Experience
Part of the reason we chose Edinburgh was because we like drinking Scotch. It’s delicious, complex, and has an interesting backstory. That meant we had to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience, an educational/entertaining tribute to the “water of life” located next to the castle. It starts with a hokey little ride where you sit in a barrel and go through a series of exhibits as a gregarious man with a mustache and top hat describes the miraculous process that turns water into whisky. (He really pronounces the H in whisky, like hhhwhisky.) After the short ride is over, you go into a classroom where a guide explains the different whisky regions and the characteristics of each type. Based on what you’ve heard, you tell him what region you’re interested in tasting (you can also say you like blended whisky) and he’ll pour you a dram. You get to keep your tasting glass as a souvenir. 
 
The next part is simply the coolest. You get to walk through the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky, 3,500 different bottles and counting. The whole room is bathed in a golden glow. You sip your whisky there and think about how much you like whisky. After a few minutes they shoo you out into a bar located at the top of the building. Since we had golden tickets, we were each entitled to a flight of four whiskies, one from each major whisky-producing region, and let’s see if I can name them from memory: Lowland, Highland, Islay, and Speyside. Yup. Since there are so many different distilleries in each area, they serve a different brand every day. No playing favorites here. We sat at the bar, gazed out over the slate-gray rooftops of Edinburgh, and sipped our way up and down the country. That’s my kind of tourism. 
 
Edinburgh Castle War Monument
 
Castle Time
Comfortably numb but far from sloppy, we dropped a not insignificant amount of cash on admission to Edinburgh Castle, which looks out over the city from Castle Hill. There’s not nearly enough space to go into detail here, and I couldn’t outdo the history books, website, or Wikipedia entry. What I can say is that the highest parts are the oldest parts, the part that looks like a chapel is actually a memorial to war heroes, we enjoyed looking at the Scottish Crown Jewels, and there’s a great view of the city from up there. And everybody makes a joke about crawling into the cannon.
 
Stepping Into The Kitchin
For Jenn’s birthday dinner, I made a reservation at The Kitchin, possibly the nicest restaurant in Edinburgh (some say the nicest in the British Isles), although technically it’s located in Leith, a.k.a Trainspotting territory. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation and enjoyed cocktails in the lounge. We were soon ushered to our table, which afforded a nice view of the elegant dining room and its collection of well-heeled diners. Kitchin is big on using locally-sourced ingredients, and our tasting menu – the Chef’s Land & Sea Surprise—was full of them: jellied chicken consommé, tartare of St. Abbs Head mackerel with Newhaven crab cream, razor clams from Arisaig, pigs head with Orkney scallops, North Sea hake, Burnside Farm rabbit, and Blacketyside Farm strawberries with Highland crowdie mousse. The wine was divine, the service impeccable, and, while it was hardly cheap, it somehow wasn’t as expensive as I had feared. It’s a meal we’ll remember for many years. Happy birthday baby! We made it back to the hotel just in time to catch Balls of Steel
 
Glenkinchie
 
Visiting the Nearest Distillery
Most Scotch Whisky distilleries are several hours north of Edinburgh, but Glenkinchie, a lowland malt, is just over an hour away. I made arrangements to visit. If you want to visit Glenkinchie, which is located in the village of Pencaitland, there are a few things you absolutely need to know, so read this next part carefully. 
 
First of all, Bus #113 only comes once an hour, so before you go, check the bus schedule, especially since it will be cold and raining while you’re at the bus stop. It just will.  
 
Second, the bus driver will tell you that there’s another bus at Pentcaitland that takes you to the distillery. There isn’t. You have to take a taxi from where the bus drops you off. It’s barely two miles down the road, but the taxi company will charge you eight pounds for the ride, which is about $350 American (my estimate). It’s best to identify who else on the bus is also going to the distillery and split the cost with them.
 
Third, the guy who works at the Spar gas station by where the bus drops you off is a total dick, even if you buy something from his store. The way I see it, you can hate out-of-towners, or you can take their money, but not both. You sure don’t want to ask him to call a taxi for you (“I charge you five pounds!”), nor do you want to ask him to make change for the pay phone. Instead, bring enough change with you and use the pay phone across the road. The phone number for the taxi is posted on the wall outside the store. 
 
But okay, fine, you’re two hours later than you had hoped, but you made it to the Glenkinchie distillery. You start off in a large exhibit area that gives you the basics of lowland malt production. There’s an impressively-detailed model of a distillery in an adjacent room. The tour itself is fun, taking you through the inner workings of the distillery, where the grain is mashed and boiled and the resulting liquid is distilled and all the magic happens. There’s a tasting room at the end, of course. As for the whisky, I enjoyed Glenkinchie very much. It’s a fine pour. To open up the flavors of your Scotch, it’s customary to add a little bit of water, but only a little bit. For that reason, they had eyedroppers at the bar, so you wouldn’t overdo it. Now I need a special eyedropper for home drinking. 
 
Jamie's Pub
 
Miss the Bus and Go to the Winton Arms
After we left the Glenkinchie distillery, the taxi driver took his time, and we just missed our bus back to Edinburgh. The driver suggested we wait for the next bus at the Winton Arms pub.  Jamie’s place. It was a few minutes after 3:00 in the afternoon. Let me tell you, the Winton Arms is one of the best bars I’ve ever visited, and one that really drives home the idea that Scottish people—certain petrol station proprietors notwithstanding—are the salt of the earth. We walked in to find Jamie tending to about five older guys at the bar. We were greeted warmly and took our seats.
 
Thing is, we’d just run out of British currency (eight-quid taxi rides will do that) so I asked Jamie, naively, if he takes credit cards. He does not. But in the time it took to count out all the coins and pocket lint in my possession, Jamie had already poured us a round on the house. Ringo down at the end of the bar offered round two. We spent the most enjoyable hour in their company, with Jamie (pictured at right) telling us how he has a team of guys who participate in the Highland Games, a Scottish Olympics of sorts that includes games with roots in Scottish history. Their sport is tug of war. He also told us that despite Glenkinchie being down the road, most local drinkers order the cheap stuff, and the kids these days are all into vodka drinks. Crusty old guys downing single malt Scotch? Not so much. It was with reluctance, deep appreciation, and exchanged email addresses that we finally left and took the double-decker back to Edinburgh. If you visit Glenkinchie, make a point to miss the bus and spend an hour at the Winton Arms. And if you do, can you give Jamie five quid for our beers? 
 
View from Arthur's Seat
 
Sit on it, Arthur
One of the main things to do in Edinburgh if you’re fit is to climb the hill, er, massive mountain next to town called Arthur’s Seat. From its summit you’ll enjoy views that stretch from the castle to the ocean and beyond. We did it, and it wasn’t an especially grueling climb, but it does take a while, and the grass is always wet, so my super-slick two-year-old Doc Martens were a problem. I slipped several times going up, and fell smack on my bum once on the way down. But it was worth it for the amazing vistas. Watch your step close to the edge. 
 
More Beers
After climbing Arthur’s Seat, we went shopping on Princes Street, then ducked into yet another pub, the Kensington Arms on Rose Street, for haddock and chips and mushy peas, and a couple of beers. If you’re looking for a good bar street in Edinburgh, you needn’t limit yourself to the Royal Mile, Cowgate, or the Grassmarket. Rose Street seems like a strip where real (if somewhat affluent) Edinburghers go for a night out. Like so many Edinburgh bars, the Kensington Arms has a great beer selection. Jenn ordered a barrel-aged Innis & Gunn, while, on the recommendation of a guy named Albert who was sitting next to us, I had a pint of Alechemy Five Sisters Cask Ale, which was great. Albert said the Alechemy brewery was recently launched by a couple of friends from university who wanted to get into brewing, which is the kind of thing that happens in the States all the time these days. 
 
High Culture
Since we were in Edinburgh at the tail end of the Edinburgh International Festival, I thought it appropriate to take in a performance of some kind. And that’s how we found ourselves in Usher Hall for a performance of the Philharmonia Orchestra, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen and supported by a comely young violist named Joscelyn Fox. Usher hall is an impressive concert hall, with multiple balconies and a massive pipe organ, so it was worth it just to see the place. When the orchestra really got into Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony – “The Romantic Symphony”—it was truly magical. 
 
Still More Beers
After the concert, we popped into the Shakespeare Pub next door. The Shakespeare is a cozy, if upscale, pub with “fruit machines” on the walls and plenty of couches and lounge chairs to sit on. We commented on how pubs in Edinburgh, like pubs in Dublin, are more welcoming to people of all ages and personal styles. People hang out as if they’re in no hurry, either to get drunk or to get going. All in its time. I drank my Guinness and most of Jenn’s beer, since she was sleepy. That’s what good husbands do.
 
Homeward Bound
And that was our trip, five days in the Scottish capital. It was time to head home. There was plenty we didn’t see, from the Camera Obscura to the underground tour, but we felt like we’d gotten the gist of the place and would love to come back another time. If you go, bring warm clothes, lots of money, and an affinity for great beer and whisky. And bring me too. 

Just in Time for Travel Season: The New Packables

This week I’ll be hopping a plane to London to embark on a 4+ leg journey through the Scottish Highlands. I am an expert packer, usually managing to only carry-on (screw the man!) and never forgetting a single beauty essential. But I’ve also never been on a trip that has called for me to spend half the time adventuring through the great outdoors and the other half enjoying culture and celebrations in swanky UK establishments with a cute celebrity and a gang of my peers. How do I pack smart for this kind of variety?

To give some background on my packing dilemma, I’ll be travelling on a press trip with Drambuie to check out The Drambuie Pursuit, the brand’s annual race through the highlands and the Isle of Skye. It’s a mix of indoor/outdoor adventure, taking in the more swanky sides of London and some lovely castles and Inns in Scotland with other journalists and a celebrity guest—Josh Duhamel—which means no gym outfits or bed head. But the majority of my time will be spent following adventure-junkies on an outdoor race through Inverness, the chilly fields of the Highlands and the rough terrain of the Isle of Skye. I started polling friends and veteran travelers on their travel essentials that work double-time to cover a trip with a range of travel conditions. Here were their pro-picks:

1). 3floz.com Beauty Junkie’s POV: Their site says “For those who travel, those who are curious, and those who can’t commit.” Sounds about right. I spoke with a representative at the company who first asked me what the most important things to get in my bag were. “Products that transition well from day to night, or casual to swanky.” Their mini, travel size versions of your favorite products is what makes the company incredibly useful: DDF Sunscreen and Ole Henriksen Micro/Mini Peel kits in tiny sizes to put next to your all purpose makeup-removing wipes (I like the Say Yes to Cucumbers brand). For those who need an all-purpose kit, they make custom packages designed for the occasion. If you’d like to treat yourself to a mini-spa on your next tropical vacay, take a look at the In-Hotel Spa Kit, or take advantage of the easy-to-carry Gym Kit. The products, by the way, aren’t anything you’re going to find in the travel section of the drugstore. Expect Phyto, Malin+Goetz and Nickel over Suave, Bic and shower caps.

2). Organic Sleep Balm by Badger Beauty Junkie’s POV: It was unanimous amongst all the expert travelers I badgered for information that jet-lag was the concern number one. Since I will be on the road pretty consistently and would also be working, I needed a way to manipulate my sleeping patterns. Since I’ve waited too long to try to get my hands on a prescription drug, this organic sleep enhancer came highly recommended. When rubbed on lips, pressure point, nose and neck the essential oils of bergamot, ginger, rosemary, lavender and balsam fir calms nerves and helps to put a traveler to bed like only whiskey could.

3). Nasal Spray Beauty Junkie’s POV: One of the reasons we get sick or run down on flights is because of the dry air. When our sinuses get dried out, germs can penetrate much more quickly without the moist mucus barrier (ew, but true). A simple saline nasal spray helps to keep your sinuses moist during the travel legs of a long trip.

4). Dry Shampoo Beauty Junkie’s POV: Everyone had their favorite brand, but many shared the same sentiment: since I’ll be around other professionals and even a celebrity at times, I’m going to want to look fresh without taking an hour to blow-dry. I like Umi Hair powder because it can be purchased in a 2oz bottle size and, unlike the sprays, is fool proof and mess-free.

5). Daily Facials Express Beauty Junkie’s POV: Olay’s Daily Facials, a brand name that would make some giggle, is a line of disposable soft-cloths that remove makeup and lifts dirt to thoroughly cleanse your skin, without adding another bottle of liquid cleaner to your travel kit.

6). Makeup Palettes Beauty Junkie’s POV: I don’t want to be sifting through eye shadow, lip gloss and loads of colors that somehow become permanent fixtures in my makeup bag. Palettes offer color themes and useful products in one slim case. Chanel’s Multi-Use Makeup Palette in Lumière Tendresse, ($85) was a big hit with the pros, but I’m into some cheaper options. Mally has a new face palette that comes complete with tools for $45.

7). Wisps Disposable Toothbrushes Beauty Junkie’s POV: When I am adventuring through the highlands for hours and need to interview a battle field expert (this is all hypothetical reasoning for why gum would not suffice) I need fresh breath and can’t be chomping bubblicious like a teenager, Wisps work to not only take care of your breath, but also cleans your teeth. Perfect for waking up in next to a snoring stranger on an overnight flight.