Celebrated the world over, Burns Night – January 25, the birthday of Scottish 18th-century poet Robert Burns – is the perfect excuse to savour a drop of the golden stuff. And this year, with the date landing on a Friday, there’s even more reason to roll out the tartan carpet.
Whether you’re throwing a Scottish-themed party or just after a snifter or two to launch a Friday night of poetry and ditties, we’ve rounded up the very best offerings from three key whisky-making regions: Speyside, the Highlands and the Isle of Islay on Scotland’s west coast, to ferry you one step closer to a top tot of the ‘water of life’.
7 whiskies to toast the haggis on Burns Night
Here are seven superb Scotch whiskies to toast this Burns Night…
1. Highland Black Scotch Whisky, 70cl, £12.99, Aldi
Instantly appealing, this is a smooth, deliciously fruity expression with a slightly honeyed sweetness, some citrusy, spicy notes and a hint of vanilla that would be a perfect match with Scottish langoustine or scallops to complement their sweet, delicate flavours. A gold medal-winner at the IWSC (International Wine & Spirits Competition), this is a great entry level Scotch that will even appeal to ‘non-whisky drinkers’.
2. Glenfairn Islay Single Malt Whisky, 70cl, £20, Tesco
Islay whiskies are famous for their smoky, peaty style, and this rich and pungent single malt has an enticing smoky character, with seaweed interplaying with hints of tar and bonfire smoke, and a broad, fruity palate with notes of allspice, dark chocolate and black toffee on the smoky finish. Add a drop of water to heighten the charred aromas and enjoy with a slice of Roquefort or Stilton.
3. Singleton Malt Master Selection, 70cl, £25, Waitrose
If the thought of a wee dram laced with dense, peaty smoke makes you want to run to the hills, don’t despair. There are plenty of mellow malts to explore too, such as the award-winning Speyside Singleton. The makers have created a series of whisky cocktails, for sophisticated party-planners (and whisky noses) who want an alternative to serving whisky neat. A light and fruity crowd-pleaser with hints of honey, fresh pear and vanilla undertones, simply add Fever Tree Light Ginger Ale and garnish with a dehydrated orange slice and freshly grated nutmeg.
4. Tomatin Legacy Bourbon & Virgin Oak Highland Single Malt, 70cl, £26.95, The Whisky Exchange
Light and delicate, smooth and silky, this glorious expression is aged in a combination of virgin and bourbon oak casks, and a great choice if you want to hold the haggis and serve a Scottish tapas menu of bite-size salmon fish cakes and Scotch eggs. An aperitif style malt, it has enticing notes of vanilla, marshmallow, pineapple and lemon with hints of apple and sponge cake on the palate. Deserves your best tulip-shaped (copita) glass.
5. Port Askaig 8 Year Old Islay Single Malt, 70cl, £39.95, The Whisky Exchange
An exceptional expression that’s right on point, Sukhinder Singh, owner of The Whisky Exchange, says:: “Islay whiskies are known for their peaty notes, yet this is a superb malt which encompasses everything about Islay, making it so much more than just a peated whisky…
“It has barely sugar, seaweed, lemon peel, peat and pepper, all unified with a sweet fruitiness that just brings a smile to your face. This is a great introduction to Islay and was runner up in our Whisky of the Year 2019 competition.”
6. The Glenrothes 10 Year Old – Soleo Collection, 70cl, £36.46, Master of Malt
A sherry bomb of a whisky: Vanilla custard, shortbread biscuit, hints of lemon peel and a rich layer of sherry flavours define this entry level expression from the new Soleo Collection, which features six sherry matured single malts.
Glenrothes bottlings are usually vintage whiskies (distilled in one single year), but this new line is aimed at the modern drinker who wants a flavour map that’s easy to navigate and does what it says on the tin.
7. Benromach 15 Years Old Single Malt, 70cl, £51.83, Master of Malt
Poetry in motion, this amber beauty should encourage some clapping to pipe in the haggis. Matured in sherry and bourbon casks, this delectable dram was Crowned Best Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards 2018. Lush and sherry spiced, with an oaky sweetness, rich fruit cake flavours with hints of zesty orange, ginger, stewed plums, cocoa and a long, warming finish are certainly in tune with a celebratory supper. Sláinte!