Burns Night always feels like a particularly well-timed celebration. Hot on the heels of ‘Blue Monday’ – supposedly the most miserable day of the year – it’s certainly nice to have a reason to get merry. It also happens to be the perfect refutation to those killjoys determined to make Dry January the new Lent.
‘O thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink!’ So wrote Robert Burns in the winter of 1785 in his ode ‘Scotch Drink’. The Scottish bard’s love of the stuff is no surprise and no Burns Night celebration is complete without a few drams. Terroir matters – from peaty Islay to spicy Speyside malts; sweeter Highland to softer Lowland varieties – and so it is worth allowing yourself to roam geographically and to enjoy a range of categories: not just single malt, but blended malt, single grain and premium blends.
What follows is a mixture of established players and new starters. Everyone has their own taste, but here are a few bottles worth trying should you want to venture beyond your usual favourites. Perfect to stave off the January blues and to toast your ‘Address to a Haggis’ tonight.
From the young Isle of Raasay Distillery on the eponymous island, this fruity whisky is the result of peated and unpeated Raasay spirits individually matured in a combination of ex-rye whiskey, chinkapin oak and Bordeaux red wine casks, before being married together.
Glen Marnoch Highland Single Malt (£16.99)
As with so many products, Lidl and Aldi are disrupting the market with impressive quality and unrivalled value for money. At just £16.99 this malt sold by Aldi has flavours of dried fruit and cinnamon, with a decent long-lasting finish. Aldi also do Islay and Speyside malts in the same Glen Marnoch range.
Macallan’s reputation precedes it and this Oloroso sherry cask-matured whisky from Speyside has a complexity that makes it worth the money.