In Edinburgh’s New Town there exists a not-so-secret society. Its agenda: to ply patrons with exceptional whiskies, and subject them to the finest of dining. Alarmed such indulgence was going on without us, we decided to investigate.
Founded more than three decades ago, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society does exactly what it says on the tin. From the comfort of a dazzling Georgian townhouse, you can take your pick of more than 200 single cask whiskies.
Each one has passed the discerning noses of an expert panel – who regularly carry out blind tastings in order to decide what’s worthy of this impressive collection.
But while membership definitely has its privileges, anyone can imbibe the society’s wonderful whiskies, and make a reservation for dinner.
We arrived with Edinburgh Foody Kerry Teakle in tow, and and made a beeline for the bar. The mere mention of a cheeky pre-dinner cocktail had all three of us foaming at the mouth (figuratively, not literally), but choosing just one isn’t easy.
The menu reads like poetry, with titles such as: Bloody Scotsman (whisky, tomato juice, lemon and spices); Penicillin (whisky, ginger juice, lemon & honey); and Elena de la Vega which does wonderful things with tequila and coriander.
But the drink that really captured our imagination was the Peat Tea Infusion – peat whisky, spiced Earl Grey Tea, fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup. Holy mother of god, it’s smoky and it’s fabulous!
A couple of these, and there could well be talk of skipping dinner and going dancing instead. Fortunately, we were soon floating up a sweeping staircase to the restaurant on the first floor.
Within moments, Kerry had made Silvere – our lovely French and flirty sommelier – her new best friend.
“These boys only drink new world sauvignon blancs,” she giggled. Playfully, Silvere raised an eyebrow. We’re tempted to say he then exclaimed, “Sacre bleu!!” But actually, that really didn’t happen.
What Silvere did do was deliver an amuse bouche of Smoked haddock with Cullen skink foam – just gorgeous – and then proceeded to match every bite of our five-star meal with the perfect wines. His recommendations were faultless.
Post-bouche, we were also wowed by the entrees. Here Isaac opted for the Terrine of wild boar and foie gras; Kerry the Rabbit, confit and roasted loin; and yours truly the Hand-dived scallops with caramelised cauliflower, ham and mustard seed broth.
Who chose best? Well, these wonderfully indulgent dishes were all incredible. Though if pushed, the first-place ribbon must go to the scallops. We love the inventive mix of flavours, and, quite frankly, they taste fan-f**king-tastic.
The main course saw us devouring the Roast rump and glazed cheek of beef with ale jus, along with the Loin and belly of Scotch Lamb with potato and sheep’s yoghurt puree, wild garlic and leeks.
Needless to say, both dishes more than lived up to those mouth-watering descriptions. Meanwhile Kerry and her close friend Silvere conspired to keep our glasses filled with old world wine, making the experience all the more delicious.
At this point we insisted upon a small respite, but alas it was not to be. Protocol dictates you simply must have at least one glass of whisky and a mini-dessert before your actual dessert. Oh well, rude not to, diet starts tomorrow, blah, blah, blah.
And oh my … the Lemon curd and goat’s cheese ice cream with almond crumble is rather lovely. But teamed with a whisky that evokes the aromas and tastes of a wedding banquet, and suddenly you’re viewing the world through tears of joy.
While hunger isn’t something we’ve truly felt since the late nineties, unbelievably we still felt compelled to order a dessert as well.
So it’s with confidence we tell you both the Scottish strawberry & champagne parfait, and the Sour cream pannacotta with treacle-filled doughnuts are absolutely sensational.
But … the Dark chocolate ganache with oat ice cream and malt sauce is the stuff of legend. Every bite induces a wave of happiness, making all thoughts of Brexit, Trump, and even your expanding waistline fade into obscurity.
Our verdict? A perfect meal, with just the right amount of pomp and ceremony.
Reviewed June 2017
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
28 Queen Street
The New Town, EH2 1JX
0131 220 2044
The Social Bitches dined as guests of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.