What will you be drinking this Burns Night? Lindt hot chocolate, coffee, or a wee Drap of the juice Scotch?
What goes best with the great chieftain of the pudding’-race? What complements haggis? What pairs the best with stovies? What gangs together on January 25thth and what should you use to toast Rabbie’s Immortal Memory?
Long before Famous Grouse and Bell’s, Robert Burns drank Dear Kilbagie in Poosie Nansie’s Tavern in Mauchline. He also mentions the rascally liquor made at Kennetpans.
Scotland’s national poet considered English brandy as burning trash. He was a whisky fan, singing the praises of the local John Barleycorn which made your courage rise and a man forget his woe.
Being from Ayrshire, he would have been a Lowland whisky man. So Auchentoshen, established in Dunbartonshire in 1823 and Glenkinchie (Johnnie Walker’s Victorian distillery near Edinburgh) single malts would be acceptable. Burns may also have been familiar with the long-defunct Borders whisky, Glen Tarras.
But more geographically appropriate whisky choices for Burns Suppers are Bladnoch and Annandale.
Bladnoch in Wigtownshire is the southernmost distillery in Scotland. It originally opened in 1817 and is one of the country’s oldest. It was bought by Australian David Prior in 2015 and its master distiller is Dr. Nick Savage.
Annandale opened in 1836 but, after being dormant for years, was revived in 2014 and, in November 2017, the first cask was broached by its owners David Thomson and Teresa Church. Ninety-nine of the bottles from the first-ever peated cask were sold and auctioned off to raise money for rugby player Doddie Weir’s charity foundation to help people with motor neuron disease.
Burns (1759 – 1796) spent the last eight years of his short life in Dumfries-shire, working as an exciseman. He led a team of excise officers to capture the marooned smuggling brig, Rosamond in 1792 and wrote the song ‘The Deil’s Awa Wi the Exciseman’ while in Annan.
Annandale Distillery’s single cask, single malt unpeated is “Man O’Words”, named in tribute to the poet. Its peated, Man O’ Sword commemorates King Robert the Bruce who had a bailey castle and motte nearby; the distillery owns and operates The Globe Inn and min-Burns Museum in Dumfries.
Perhaps the closes spirit to what Burns would have drunk might be Annandale’s Rascally Liquor®, a 63.5% clear malt spirit made in exactly the same way as single malt Scotch whisky but not matured in oak casks. There are two expressions available: fruity, toffee unpeated Rascally, and smoky peated Rascally. Both are made in Bruns country. In Dumfriesshire, one shows Tam riding into town for a night on the whisky, the other shows him being chased by the Devil’s entourage -the” Hellish Legion”.
That would be the right whisky to toast Burns and get everyone in the mood. A Bowmore 15-year-old Islay can be saved for The Toast to the Lassies and the Highland Park Viking Heart for The Reply. It might have roots in Orkney but still goes with stuffed stomach lining dishes!
Syrah, Carignan and Ribera del Duero wines are all good with haggis. Campbell’s Bobbie Burns Australian Shiraz is meant to be good with a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck, pulverized offal minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt.