On January 25, people around the world will join together to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, widely revered as the national poet of Scotland. A farmer and labourer from Ayrshire, his lyrical verses in both English and the traditional Scots dialect have transformed him into a global icon whose influence has spanned continents and cultures. And no Burns Night supper would be complete without another distinctly Scottish export: whisky.
With highly complex flavours infused in every cask, choosing the right whisky for the right occasion can be a daunting process. But never fear, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s (SMWS) latest outturn of single cask whiskies perfectly encapsulates the famous spirit of Burns. Read on to discover the ideal flavour profile for every step of your Burns supper this year.
When toasting the haggis
A Burns Night typically begins with the dulcet tones of a traditional bagpipe, leading a procession consisting of the chef, a haggis borne aloft on a silver platter and the brave soul who will be delivering a humorous rendition of Burns’s ‘Address to a Haggis’. Once the haggis has been eaten, the audience raises their glass of whisky and cries, ‘The haggis!’ before taking a sip from their glass. The warm clove sweetness of Warm Butter on Banana Bread, a cask from SMWS’s ‘Old & Dignified’ profile, is the perfect way to open the celebration and prepare your guests’ palate for the upcoming largesse…
When enjoying your meal
The traditional bill o’ fare at a Burns supper usually includes a hearty cock-a-leekie soup for starter; haggis, neeps and tatties for main course; and a Typsy Laird (a classic sherry trifle) for pudding. Though your haggis will likely have received a generous dousing of whisky already, this scrumptious meal would pair nicely with a whisky from SMWS’s ‘Spicy and Sweet’ profile, such as their Cherry Fudge with Dark Chocolate. Deeply, darkly aromatic with spicy hits of orange peel, ginger and chocolate, this Speyside whisky will go down well with your meal.
When singing along to the entertainment
As your guests are discretely wiping away tears during Burns’ heartbreaking ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, or politely listening to a recitation of his interminable epic ‘Tam o’ Shanter’, why not give them something sweet and easy to sip on? An Artist Paints in a Garden, from their ‘Juicy, Oak and Vanilla’ profile, is an undeniable crowd-pleaser. A delicately perfumed spirit, this Speyside whisky carries elegant notes of citrus sweetness and summer cream, with a pleasing finish of charred oak and lemon.
When toasting the immortal memory
As the festivities reach their climax, the supper’s keynote speaker will give an engaging speech dedicated to the life and legacy of Robert Burns. Covering his fame and his all-too-human foibles alike, the speech is meant to be both a sombre meditation and a cheerful roast of the great Ploughman Poet. Much in the same vein is A Composition in Wood, from the ‘Spicy and Dry’ range, which perfectly harmonises sweet and sour elements with hints of butterscotch and vinagre de Jerez. Evocative of rich Medjool dates, charred wood and ginger cake, this whisky is as complex and compelling as Burns himself.
When toasting the lassies
The final portion of the evening is dedicated to a good-humoured ‘Toast to the Lassies’, usually praising the fine qualities of the women in the room, before featuring a sparky rebuttal from the lassies in question. At this point, why not take a sip of Cajun Sweet Potato Fries from the Spicy and Sweet profile? Boasting a sweet hit of candied fruit and brown sugar on the nose, while also revealing a spicy palate of jalapeño pepper and lime, this whisky is the perfect tribute to a special evening.
When bidding adieu
Alas, that all good things must come to an end. But before you clasp hands and roar along to ‘Auld Lang Syne’, you could wet your whistle with a dram of Sailing Ship in Stormy Seas, the grand doyenne of SMWS’s ‘Heavily Peated’ profile. And indeed, this whisky does not pull any punches, with lashings of briny, smoky and salty flavours, before reprieve comes in the form of burnt treacle, caramel and white wine.
If you enjoy good whisky, why not become a member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society? By becoming a member of this esteemed society of like-minded whisky enthusiasts, you’ll get to sample some pretty incredible drams, get access to their Members’ Rooms in Edinburgh and London for yourself and three guests, exclusive access to tasting events, and so much more. With membership packages to suit every preference, there’s no better time to refine your palate with the most storied of spirits.