TRAVELS: EDINBURGH ICE COMPANY
MY MORNING WITH THE KING AND QUEEN OF ICE
During my fairytale trip with Glenfiddich a few weeks back, we were lucky enough to make a trip to The Edinburgh Ice Company, to attend an ice workshop to learn more about how clear ice is made. Rhys Ferguson walked us through the process from start to finish, and even let us use all of the sharp tools to "clunk, clink, flick" away at some ice blocks!
The Edinburgh Ice Company, which is owned by Rhys Ferguson and Ilanna Middleton, is located in the back of Summerhall, an arts venue that houses many different artists in residency, at what used to be The Royal Dick Veterinary School! There, they make Clinebell Block Ice and Hoshizaki Cubed and Crushed Ice. Clinebell refers to an ice making machine that takes over 3 days to turn triple filtered water into two, 300 pound clear ice blocks. The water freezes from the bottom up, pushing down any impurities. Hoshizaki refers to a Japanese ice making machine that makes cubed and crushed ice. Now, not any Joe Schmoe can go and buy one of these insanely expensive machines and make clear ice blocks at home. These machines require quite a bit of attention and care, and must be monitored while the ice is "cooking". Also, a big factor, one some may say is the biggest, is TERROIR. Just how terroir is important in whisky and wine, it holds true with ice making as well. The key in making good, delicious, crystal clear ice is the water, and The EIC has some of the best water on the planet. Their water source, The Glencorse Reservoir located in Midlothian, Scotland, was built in the 1820's to provide drinking water to the people of Edinburgh . The water is low in minerals and impurities, which when sent through the worlds best ice making machines, creates crisp, delicious, slow melting, crystal clear ice.
After we learned about the process of making the ice, we all got a block of our own and got to have some fun with the arsenal of tools to carve and chop our own ice creations! The tools used ranged from a 120 pound saw, a Japanese carving knife, numerous ice picks, a few hammers, a blow torch, a vintage ice shaver and a giant cleaver! We each started with an ice block, and were taught to cut cubes by taking a Faithful cleaver and "feathering" , or scoring the ice with heat friction to make a nice straight line for the ice to split down once you hit the line with your cleaver and hammer. From there you were able to cut down cubes to fit into a glass, or use any one of the menagerie of tools to chip and sculpt ice diamonds or rough spheres. And again, the ice is slow melting so its not dripping and melting like an ice cream cone in your hands on a hot summer day! Here Rhys showed us the tricks of the trade, taught us about the right temperature for handling ice (-10 degrees), whipped up a few ice diamonds with a carving knife, and made it look super easy, although it was definitely a little harder than one may think!
After the workshop was over, we were taken to their office, which was once the tack room at the Royal Dick Veterinary School, where we were greeted by Hank Williams Jr, and Rhu! (@theicepups) They ended the tour with doggie hugs and the gift of the best hoodie in all of hoodie creation! Be sure to purchase one if you ever make your way to see them! They offer both workshops and ice masterclasses for those of you who are wanting to learn more about clear ice and how to handle and cut it. I promise you that you will NOT be disappointed, and you will learn bounds of information!
I never appreciated ice like I do now, thanks to the awesome folks over at The Edinburgh Ice Company. For me, it was always just frozen water, and the whole clear ice fad was never something I ever really cared about. I wasn't a cocktail connoisseur by any means, and I very rarely drank ice in my whisk(e)y, and when I did just tossed in a cloudy sphere from my freezer and I was good to go. Having experienced this workshop and drinking Glenfiddich 15 with one of their gorgeous cubes I can now honestly say that I have a new wild appreciation for ice, and those who make it! I now understand that good ice wont water down your whisky or cocktail, or muddy it in any way. I may have made it sound easy in this post, but I can guarantee you that The EIC is doing its research, and truly appreciating mother natures gift of amazing water by crafting these beautiful cubes.
Not only does The EIC make ice blocks, and cubed ice, they also make ice spheres, crystals, ice cubes with flowers inside, and even honeycombed ice cubes, along with many other bespoke ice creations. And yes, they are all crystal clear. Not a speck of cloudiness, not a single bubble of air. They even package their ice cubes to be sent to bars across Scotland, and as of late have been making deliveries to London! Soon, you may even find some EIC cubes in your drinks at your local bar! Massive thanks to Rhys for being so rad, and to The Edinburgh Ice Company for being so welcoming!
Follow them on IG: @edinburghicecompany
THE EDINBURGH ICE CO.