Every year on 25 January, Scots and others beside join together in celebration of Scottish tradition and culture in the name of the country’s national bard, Robert Burns. It’s a night of poetry and singing, to be shared with friends old and new.
It’s also an occasion to enjoy great platefuls of haggis, neeps and tatties and, in keeping with the spirit of all things Scottish, one or two warming glasses of whisky.
Whisky pairing is an integral element of Burns Night. With so much choice, though, choosing the right one can be a daunting prospect. Smoky or sweet? Blended or single malt? Mixed or neat?
Our guide to the perfect Burns Night – whisky an’ a’!
Why not start proceedings with a whisky from one of the oldest operations distilleries in Scotland? According to early accounts, spirit has been flowing on the site of the Glenturret Distillery in Perthshire since at least 1717, meaning that Burns himself could well have enjoyed a dram from the very place. The standard 10-year-old expression is a great value dram perfectly representative of the classic flavours you’d expect from a single malt Scotch – perfect as an aperitif.
Out in the Hebrides, Isle of Arran Distillers is producing a range of unique and charming single malts, ranging from the citrusy and creamy 10-year-old to the wonderfully opulent Marsala Finish. The brand has even used Burns’ image to create a whisky in his honour: The Robert Burn’s Single Malt.
Once appetites have been worked up, it’s time for the main event. Tradition states that the haggis should be doused with a little whisky before being served. Try Johnnie Walker Black Label or Black Bottle; both have peaty backbones to stand up to the haggis, and neither will disappoint when served alongside it.
Make it a modern affair
For those new to whisky, what about something distinctly modern? Monkey Shoulder was launched in 2005 and has been a starring member of back bars the world over ever since. A blend of three Speyside single malts, it was voted the ‘trendiest’ whisky in 2016. It’s a perfect choice for an alternative Burn’s night this year, maybe featuring a vegetarian haggis.
Any of the whiskies we’ve mentioned will work perfectly in cocktails. The Rob Roy, combining sweet vermouth, Scotch whisky and Angostura bitters, is a perfect choice. More fitting still, seek out a bottle of Benedictine liquor, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a Bobby Burns!
Once the meal is over, and Auld Lang Syne has been chorused by the merry guests, there’s time for one final dram. Laphroaig 10, with its powerful and smoky hit, is sure to keep guests warmed through for the walk home. For a non-peaty alternative, try the rich and heavily sherried Macallan Double Cask.