The Vintner’s Rooms and a couple of Old Pulteney’s

A Night at the Vintner’s Rooms

Sometimes I just don’t realise how lucky I am. To live in this fantastic country that is Scotland and in the brilliant city that is Edinburgh. I shouldn’t take it for granted. That’s how I feel about the Vintner’s Rooms in Leith. I feel like I have taken it for granted. I had only visited once until the other day, and yet this place has one if not the biggest whisky bar in the UK.


The Vintner’s Rooms is an Italian restaurant with 2 stories. One is of the building and restaurant itself:

Nestled in the heart of Leith, The Vintners Rooms restaurant is located in The Vaults in Giles Street. Wine importation into Leith, established by the religious orders, dates back to the 12th Century and a Vaults building has stood on this site since around 1580.
By the 15th Century the strength of the wine trade became such that it was managed by a Guild, The Fraternity of St Anthony. There were even well defined workers groups as the “stingmen” and the “rollers”, those who carried or rolled casks. In due course following the Reformation the monopoly on wine shifted to the ascendant Edinburgh’s Vintners Guild.
About 1580 a single storey building was constructed above the “black vaults” using sea shore boulders and lime. This building was variously rebuilt culminating in 1785 with the present immense warehouse with pantile roof.
The current building, circa 1785, consists of the old saleroom with auctioneers alcove and the fine hand worked stucco in this room reflects the importance of Leith as a wine port. Thomas Clayton whose work also appears in Holyrood Palace, Blair Castle and Brunstane House executed the delicate plasterwork.
With the lapse of wine importation, the saleroom became a museum and then ultimately a restaurant in 1985. It soon established itself as one of the finest dining rooms in Edinburgh, with a warm ambience created by the beautiful surroundings and candlelight.

The Second Story is of Italy and Whisky:

There is no overstating the passion Italian’s have for Scotch. At one point, they were the second biggest consumers of Scotch Whisky in the World. Between the 5 biggest collectors of Scotch Whisky in Italy, you have over 100,000 bottles of whisky. It seems to fit into the Italian mentality: La Dolce Vita (The Good life) and the Italian passion: Good Food, Good drink and beautiful women (as certain high powered politicians would testify, or not)
The Magnificent 5 of Italy are: Begnoni, Casari, D’Ambrosio, Montanari and Zagatti. As I mentioned, between them they have over 100,000 bottles of whisky. They are collectors and many of them began by running bars in the 60s and 70s and stocking their bars with their collections.
This is where the Vintner’s Rooms comes in. Giuseppe Begnoni has given the Vintner’s rooms 1300 bottles from his collection and made them available at the Vintner’s Rooms bar.

That evening

Andy and I were down at the Vintners Rooms to taste some whisky. It may become a weekly event. It’s fun to taste history.
We had to choose the whiskies we wanted to try, so we had a look around. When I wandered around this bar, the sheer number of labels overwhelmed me. Where to start?

We chose Old Pulteney as a Distillery to begin with. I think we are going to make our way, by tasting, from Wick through the Highlands and Speyside until we reach the Lowlands.

Old Pulteney 18
(Disitlled 1970-Bottled 1988)

Nose: Fennel, oily, hazelnuts, orange, quite spicy and peppery. It is rich and complex. It shows quite a bit of body and less sweetness than modern Old Pulteney.

Palate: Citrusy top note followed by leather, chocolate and bbq smoke. It really coats the mouth. It is a big whisky. Thoroughly enjoyable. It has a lot of bite and body to it.

With Water: An absolute joy. Becomes far more chocolaty.

Thoughts: A really tasty whisky.  Less of the honey that the current Pulteney exhibits.

Old Pulteney 20
(Distilled 1968-Bottled 1988)

Nose: Marzipan, apples, grapefruit and grape. It is sweet on the nose, but it also smells a little flat. There isn’t the same spiciness and oiliness. It lacks oomph.

Palate: Delicate, grassy and floral.

The 18 is miles better. It feels like the 20 has gone a little flat. It just doesnt have the body, strength and spiciness of the 18.

Andy and I had a few beers and chatted to Silvio Praino (Manager of the Vintners Rooms). Looking at all the different bottles, rare bottles, bespoke labels and ancient bottles, I began to really appreciate the Vintners Rooms and Mr Begnoni’s collection. It feels like a labour of love and passion for Scotland’s finest drink.

Visit the Vintner’s Rooms for a dram or Dinner. Really, you will be blown away.

Vintners Rooms Restaurant & Whisky
The Vaults, 87 Giles St. Leith,
Edinburgh, EH6 6BZ

0131 554 6767



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