Abbot’s Choice Scotch Whisky: Leith Whisky Trail – Whisky Walking Tour
As the coronavirus pandemic means it’s just not possible to schedule any Leith Whisky Trail tours at the moment, I thought I’d give you an insight into some of the history covered on the tours, starting with Abbot’s Choice Scotch Whisky.
Of course, each tour would normally conclude with some liquid history! So, until we’re able to meet up in person and share a few drams, I’ll make sure to keep all the bottles safe and sound!
Let’s start at Leith Links. Just opposite the park, you’ll find 10 Links Place.
The address – 10 Links Place – is important as it was once the registered address for a number of Distillers Company Limited subsidiaries. Behind Links Place, you’ll find Pattison Street. Now, some say this has a link to the infamous Pattison brothers but I have yet to find any evidence to support that theory. And just along Links Place, you’ll find Salamander Place, which was once known as Bath Street, and this was once the address of Invergordon Distillers. So in a very small geographical area, we already have a fair bit of whisky history.
Situated just between Salamander Place and Pattison Street, is a small lane called Poplar Lane. As you walk along it, you see a reddish brick building. The sign is still there despite having a few letters missing. However, you can still make out that this was in fact the bonded warehouse for Abbot’s Choice Scotch Whisky.
Abbot’s Choice Scotch Whisky was bottled by John McEwan and Co Ltd which was one of those aforementioned DCL subsidiaries. John McEwan and Co were also the bottlers of Chequers, another well known blended whisky, as well as being the registered owners of Linkwood distillery in Elgin.
For those unfamiliar with Abbot’s Choice, the whisky often came in a ceramic decanter in the shape of a monk. In order to enjoy the whisky you needed to twist his head off and pour out the contents!
Abbot’s Choice was a blend of several single malts and single grain whiskies but it’s probably safe to say that Linkwood was a key component.
The building today is home to Georgian Antiques. However, if you look closely you’ll see plenty of signs giving away its previous identity. On the brickwork, you can still see the outline of the words ‘Customs Bond’ and if you venture inside you can see plenty of other clues. For example, the H.M Customs and Excise door which today is the door to the main office. Also, if you look closely, you can spot some other features indicating the building’s original purpose; the light switches, for example, were made to avoid creating a spark. Obviously something which needed to be avoided in a bonded warehouse!
At one point in Leith there were between 90 and 100 bonded warehouses and for many years it was a thriving whisky district where many blenders and bottlers were based. Brand names such as McDonald & Muir’s Highland Queen, William Sanderson’s VAT 69 and Crawford’s 3 Star among many others were all just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Abbot’s Choice warehouse. Today, though, most of the bonds have been converted into flats or offices.
If we head to the end of Pattison Street, we join Elbe Street which in the 1800s was once known as Whisky Row. It’s here where you’ll find the pub, The Bowlers Rest, where the tasting part of the Leith Whisky Trail takes place. This is one of the very few real pubs left in Leith. Eric has been the landlord here for over 25 years and I really doubt there have been many changes to the place in that time!
The pub is on the corner of Mitchell Street which today is full of plenty of new build housing. However where many of the new flats are now, there was once a distillery as well as a blenders and bottlers. Look out for a future post where they’ll be covered.
Interested in joining us on a future Leith Whisky Trail tour? Vouchers are available and can be redeemed at any time!