With a dark, cold January being exacerbated by a Covid winter this year, Burns Night couldn't come quicker - especially for the millions of Scots currently living in lockdown. While the recent restrictions put a rain check on larger Burns Supper parties, we can still find ways to celebrate ol' Rabbie Burns' 220th birthday with an evening of friends (virtually!), food, poems, and the best tradition of all, Scotch whisky.
So whether you're serving up a Burns supper with haggis, neeps and tatties (that's haggis, turnips and potatoes for you non-Scots!), or having a quieter, celebratory dram, you'll need some Scotch whisky. With a spectacular selection to choose from, we've narrowed down our top picks for toasting the national bard.
Benriach The Smoky Twelve
Released as part of their revamped core-range in 2020, Benriach The Smoky Twelve has quickly become a Speyside staple that calls for a spot on every whisky lover's shelf. We reached out to Brown Forman Global Brand Ambassador Stewart Buchanan to tell us more about what makes it a top toasting dram to the Bard:
"As ever to celebrate Burns night I will be donning my kilt, getting tucked into my haggis, neeps and tatties and pouring a large dram, this year will be made a little more special with our new Benriach The Smoky Twelve." Stewart tells us. "The combination of peated and unpeated spirit, bourbon barrels, sherry casks and Marsala wine casks offer a smooth, creamy single malt, layered with ripened fruit, aromatic smoky sweetness and warming oak spice, lingering into a cocoa and orange smoke finish."
"Although it does pair perfectly with haggis, the rich fruits, spices and nutty sweet smoke lead me more to the other Scottish national dish, Cranachan, often referred to as 'the uncontested king of Scottish desserts'! Traditionally, this dish celebrates the harvest using in-season raspberries that you can easily swap for whisky soaked raisins and a touch of nutmeg. Once layered up with toasted oats, a drizzle of heather honey, a dollop of double cream, all it needs is to be topped off with a sprinkling of chopped toasted hazelnuts, light muscovado sugar and a dusting of cocoa - a perfect pairing as I'm sure you'll agree! And after that you will be reciting the full works of the bard himself without a care!"
GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival
Meet your perfect post-supper malt: the award-winning GlenDronach Revival 15 Year Old is an elegant and complex single malt, made from the finest Oloroso Sherry and Pedro Ximenez casks. With an incredible concentration of aromas, treacle toffee and chocolate orange are just a few of the full-bodied flavours that make up this dynamic dram.
Balvenie The Week of Peat 14 Year Old
If it's less of a Big Supper and more of a casual cheese* and chocolate kind of night this year, then this dram from Balvenie is just the ticket! Crafted by distilling peated malt for one week of the year, this expression from the Speyside distillery is the second release in The Balvenie Stories series. Described as a narrative from the ancient earth, this 14-year-old single malt was the brainchild of distillery manager Ian Millar after a visit to the famously peaty isle of Islay.
*We recommend pairing this with a lighter, creamy brie to balance out the smokier flavours of the whisky.
Glen Scotia 15 Year Old
Gently matured in the finest American Oak barrels for 15 years before bottling, this single malt from Glen Scotia really does epitomise Campbeltown whisky character. With flavours of vanilla oak and ginger, interwoven with the subtle notes of sea spray and spicy aromatic fruits, this is a brilliant, bang-for-your-buck dram.
Fun fact: Burns' first love, Mary Campbell - aka 'Highland Mary' - spent some time in Campbeltown, prompting a lovesick Rabbie to pen, "Will ye go to the Indies my Mary, and leave auld Scotia's shore?” He had proposed a possible future in Jamaica with her, before her tragic and untimely death.
Aberlour Casg Annamh
Sherry bomb alert! Taking its name from the Gaelic for 'Rare Cask', this limited release from Aberlour is crafted with European oak sherry casks and American oak casks. This Speyside single malt has a big sherry, honeyed character, with sweet and fruity notes, alongside hints of espresso, and cinnamon spice, before all butter shortbread and red apples in the finish.
What makes Aberlour Casg Annamh so special is its versatility; this dram pairs perfectly with cheese, chocolate, and baked goods, and works remarkably well in a pre-dinner whisky cocktail.
Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà
Pronounced ‘Toch-ach ah-gha’, this whisky's name translates to ‘Smoky Two’ in Gaelic. Crafted with Bunnahabhain Mòine, the distillery’s peated spirit, this single malt is a sequel to the original Toiteach and uses a higher proportion of sherry casks in the final blend than its predecessor. The flavour profile here is a warming blend of peat and spice, with a gorgeous Oloroso sherry twist to top off this crowd-pleaser of a dram.
Happy Burns Night, everyone!