Colin Hinds knows his whisky. An award-winning chef, Colin cooked all over the world before moving to Edinburgh to open The Kilted Lobster in 2014 and later Rib-Aye and The Whisky Forager. He has hung up his chef’s whites for now; instead you’ll find him behind the bar at Tipsy Midgie.

Just 14 months after opening, Tipsy Midgie was awarded Benromach’s Whisky Bar of the Year, and Colin Deanston Whisky Guru of the year at The Scottish Bar and Pub Awards.

“I didn’t really think I would win,” says Colin, “but it was a nice reinforcement of the hard work we put in.”

Whisky is Colin’s profession and his passion. “I’ve been doing this for 30-odd years, so the accumulated knowledge is just there. I visit a lot of distilleries. I’m involved with distillery tasting panels and whisky forums. I drink a lot of whisky. So, yeah, I just know my craft,” he says.

The National:

Tipsy Midgie has the biggest whisky collection in Edinburgh. “When people see the list they realise we’re a bar that knows about whisky, not just a bar that happens to have a couple of hundred bottles,” says Colin. A couple of hundred is an understatement.

“We like to keep about 800 open,” he says (his personal collection stretches to thousands).

Tipsy Midgie runs weekly Distillery Discovery events and low-priced whisky flights on Sundays. “I could charge more, but I want people to be able to afford to come along and enjoy it,” he says. “Why should whisky be elite?”

So with this spirit of exclusivity and discovery, I asked the whisky guru to let us in on some of the current trends in Scotch.

“There’s an increased respect for non-age statement whiskies,” Colin says. “In the old days people would say a 12 year old is better than a 10, an 18 year old is better than a 15. Which isn’t necessarily true.

The National:

“These days the craft of making whisky is so superb. We have master craftsmen and master blenders. The actual process of making whisky is honed to such a beautiful skill. It’s artistry. You can have amazing whisky which is four or five years old, and there’s increased understanding that non-age statement whisky is great whisky.”

“There’s a rise in independent bottling,” says Colin. “Five years ago, you would’ve only been able to name four or five independent bottlers, now I could easily name 30 or 40. They’re doing really interesting things, very flavour led and putting a lot of craft into it. Independent bottlers have also kept many distilleries afloat over the years with much needed cash flow: “They’re instrumental in the survival of a lot of distilleries.”

How about blending I ask? “Give it 18 months to two years. We’ll start doing a blended night next year,” says Colin. “People are starting to buy really old blends. There are some beautiful whiskies”. This is when you see Colin’s expertise in full flow. He knows who owned which distillery when, and what went into blends in the 80s and 90s.

There’s a lot of interest in new distilleries too. “Some are still viewed with anticipation, others with a little bit of reservation,” says Colin. “People are very welcoming towards new whiskies, but I think we keep one eye on the future.

“Most new distilleries have incredibly knowledgeable and talented people behind them.

The National:

“In Edinburgh we’ve gone from no distilleries to three (Port of Leith, Holyrood, Crabbie) which hasn’t happened for a hundred years. Glasgow had Auchentoshan, and now there’s Glen Luss, Loch Lomond, 1770 and Clydeside, that’s five distilleries in about a eight mile radius.”

Colin is passionate about introducing people to whisky, even collecting signed Polaroids of smiling customers who have been, ‘converted by Colin’.

 “We can look after the complete novice or anyone who wants to learn more about whisky without the expense of buying stuff they don’t enjoy. I can curate a nice list for them. We’re all about inclusivity. We have some amazing whisky discussions and philosophical discussions in here,” Colin says, “whisky appeals to so many different types of personalities, and you never stop learning. The good thing about having so much whisky is nobody thinks it tastes the same, at least not in this bar!”
67 St Leonards Hill, Edinburgh, EH8 9SB