Five whiskies with which to toast Rabbie Burns



Ahead of Burns Night our Spirits Buyer Rob Whitehead recommends five whiskies for a wine-less evening in honour of the poet who wrote, “Let other poets raise a fracas /’Bout vines, an’ wines, an’ drucken Bacchus”.

One of the few saving graces of this frigid time of year is the yearly homage to the iconic Scots poet, Robert Burns. The 25th of January each year in my home is a time to share classic Scottish food and drink with friends and loved ones, accompanied by apologetically attempting at least a few lines of Burns’s ‘Address to a Haggis’ in my finest Scottish brogue.

I like to begin the supper with smoked salmon, followed by the traditional Haggis, neeps and tatties with a richly indulgent whisky-cream sauce, then Cranachan to round out the meal. Including, naturally, an apéritif and digestif, this means I’ll choose five whiskies – one to complement each part of the evening.

Apéritif: Glencadam, 10-year-old, Highland, Single Malt Scotch Whisky (46%)

One of my favourite delicate Highland malts, entirely unpeated and not overtly woody, thus lending itself to pre-dinner moments beautifully. This whisky prepares the palate nicely for more richly textured things to come, without lacking interest itself.

Starter: Blue Hanger Blended Malt, 11th Release (45.6%)

To complement the smoked salmon, this impeccable dram shows a light but appreciable smokiness woven through the softly citrus fruit character and subtle spice. This is ideally balanced for the first course and was recently recognised as the Best Blended Malt Whisky in the World.

Main Course: 1995 The Glenrothes, Cask 55, Speyside, Single Malt Whisky (45.5%)

It is my own personal feeling that heavily peated malts are not the best suited to the peppery savouriness of a fine haggis. This leads me to Speyside in search of my main-course whisky, specifically this glorious Sherry cask aged example. Spicy and full-bodied, compelling and rich, this has the cushioned texture that good neeps and tatties should have with sufficient character to complement and even enhance haggis, the star of the show. I’d also suggest imbuing a good measure of this into the whisky-cream sauce!

Dessert: 1987 Berrys’ Own Selection Bunnahabhain, Single Malt Whisky (46.0%)

Frankly, if I were to have only one whisky throughout the evening, the versatility of this malt ensures that this would be it. Decades in old American oak have softened the spirit to allow great complexity and some sweetness to shine through and pair with the Cranachan.

Digestif: Highland Park, 30-year-old, Orkney, Single Malt Scotch Whisky (45.7%)

Something rather special to while away the rest of the evening accompanying convivial conversation: lusciously peaty and sweetly oaky, this lingering dram shows Scotland’s most northerly distillery at its finest. Moreish and lingering, I’d imagine I’ll find my way to a second glass!

Browse Rob’s Burns Night selection on