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One for the road at The Last drop in Edinburgh

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Drinking whisky in the pub where men condemned to death had their last meal made me think about life, death and gluttony.

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The «Last drop» pub on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh, Scotland, is where men sentenced to hang for such horrible crimes as stealing a pair of boots or being a Protestant were taken to have their last meal while they prepared the gallows across the road. Just before leaving the pub they were given a last whisky, 'one for the road' as it was called.

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Sir Walter Scott, Scotland's most distinguished writers, recalls how executions were prepared just opposite the pub:

«It was the custom, until within these thirty years or thereabouts, to use this esplanade for the scene of public executions. The fatal day was announced to the public by the appearance of a huge black gallows-tree towards the eastern end of the Grassmarket. This ill-omened apparition was of great height, with a scaffold surrounding it, and a double ladder placed against it, for the ascent of the unhappy criminal and executioner. As this apparatus was always arranged before dawn, it seemed as if the gallows had grown out of the earth in the course of one night, like the production of some foul demon; and I well remember the fright with which the schoolboys, when I was one of their number, used to regard these ominous signs of deadly preparation. On the night after the execution the gallows again disappeared, and was conveyed in silence and darkness to the place where it was usually deposited, which was one of the vaults under the Parliament House, or courts of justice.»
Walter Scott, Heart of Mid-Lothian

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The pub's grim past does not seem to discourage the patrons. Far from it - the place is packed full with locals and tourists from dusk till dawn. The owner even uses it to attract people, with nooses and gallows on every wall and the facade painted bright red. And yet, when you think of it, indulging in gluttony, my favorite sin, takes a whole new dimension in this place.

A young man hanged on the grim Grassmarket gallows summed up the feel of this place in his gallows' speech:

«Now, I leave off to speak any more to creatures, and turn my speech to Thee, O Lord. Now I begin my intercourse with God which shall never be broken off. Farewell, father and mother, friends and relations! Farewel, world and all delights! Fairwell, meat and drink! Farewell, sun, moon and stars! Welcome, God the Father! [...] Welcome, eternal life! Welcome, death!»
Hugh Mackail, executed in 1666 at the age of 26 for participating in a failed Protestant coup

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I sat down with a beautiful peaty Single Malt whisky from Islay and started to think.

Just how many Single Malts will I drink before my last drop? That may be the last one right now for all I know. You can't take the bottle to the grave and the only whisky that's really yours is the one you drink before you kick the bucket.

While I was contemplating life, death and gluttony, a vision came to me through the spirit. The inescapable conclusion is that you need to enjoy every whisky as it if were your last one. Carpe Whiskyem my friend - that's the spirit.

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Enlightened by this gluttonous epiphany, I immediately set out to put my gullet where my philosophy was and ordered two more whiskys: One for the road - and one for the drop.

drop by and load up at
The Last drop Tavern
74 Grassmarket
Edinburgh, Scotland
+44 (0) 131 2254851

Published 09/08/2007
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4 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Beatrice
  • on: 04/09/2007
Francois,If you have a classic car, you can join the Scottish Malts and Reliability Trial sometime in winter (usually in December, I believe).  The route is a bit different every year, but you can have your fill of single malts and the camaraderie of people who love old cars.  Just take your woolies!  
  • #2
  • Comment by Mal
  • on: 31/10/2007
Also where they not carried through town to the gallows on a Wagon and when it was time to leave the Pub the owner out of courtesy as if the prisoner wanted one more drink and the executioner would say " No He is on the Wagon" hence the term "On the Wagon"?   
  • #3
  • Comment by Daniel
  • on: 08/04/2010
Next time your in Edinburgh, try the Mussel and Steak Bar. It is wunderbar! The scottish to mussels very well.
  • #4
  • Comment by tony
  • on: 14/10/2010
me encanta tu pagina creo que todo lo que has puesto es impresionante y muy informativo pareciera que los lectores te acompañamos a tus viajes espero con ansias tus siguientes reseñas.

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