The Perfect Scotch Whiskies To Celebrate Burns Night 2021

By Joseph V Micallef

Robert Burns (1759-1796), is Scotland’s National Bard. He was a poet and lyricist who wrote in both Scottish and English, and remains to this day a Scottish cultural icon and a bedrock of Scotland’s national identity. Among his many compositions are Auld Lange Syne, A Red, Red RoseTam O’ Shanter and, of course, Address to a Haggis.

Five years after his death, a group of his devoted friends gathered together to celebrate his life and work. The tradition caught on and came to be celebrated on or around his birthday of January 25. That date, often referred to as Robert Burns Day, has become Scotland’s unofficial National Day. In fact, it’s more widely celebrated in Scotland than the official national observance of St Andrew’s Day.

 

At the heart of the celebration is the Burn’s Supper or Burns Night—a traditional Scottish dinner typically accompanied by numerous drams of Scotland’s whisky.

Robert Burns
Robert Burns PHOTO, COURTESY WIKIPEDIA/NAYSMITH

The traditional Burns Supper begins with a soup course. This is usually a classic Scottish soup like Scotch broth, potato soup, Cullen skink (a thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions) or cock-a-leekie (a soup dish consisting of leeks and peppered chicken stock).

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Happy Rabbie Burns Day: Burns Night quotes, poems and facts about Robert Burns

Time to prep your neeps and tatties.

Burns Night is upon us and you know what that means – it’s almost time to have some haggis, a wee dram, an’ ah few lovely tatties. Burns Night is the celebration of Robert Burns’ life and poetry, and it takes place every year on 25 January. The tradition started shortly after Burns’ death, when his friends made a pact to celebrate his life every year on 21 July – the date of his death – but over the years it became tradition to celebrate Burns Night on what would have been his birthday. If you want to get in on the festivities when we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about Rabbie Burns and some classic quotes of his.

Rabbie Burns quotes and poem extracts Burns Night celebrations will usually kick-off with the host saying a few words, and sometimes reciting Burns’ Selkirk Grace. The Selkirk Grace, which is written in the Scottish dialect, as many of Burns’ poems were, goes like this:

‘Some hae meat an canna eat
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.’

Robert Burns

Read More on Burns Night at: Happy Rabbie Burns Day: Burns Night quotes, poems and facts about Robert Burns

Land of westlin’ winds: the best Scottish poetry for Burns Night

James Naughtie’s picks include bashed pillows, sharp stars and sexy spacemen. What are your favourites?

In a week that feels ripe for celebrating the reach of poetry – and just in time for Burns Night – the Scottish Poetry Library has asked James Naughtie to choose his “best of the best” Scottish poems of the past 15 years.

Moving from, as Naughtie puts it, “Edwin Morgan in his last years talking about love” to “Kathleen Jamie catching a sense of national belonging in a few short lines”, it is a soul-quenching selection. There is humour and beauty in Claire Askew’s I Am the Moon, and You Are the Man on Me: “Tonight, I am white and full. / My surface is all curves / and craters,” she opens, later writing, deliciously: “Your compass does not work here, / but you are sexy / in your spaceman suit.” Liz Lochhead’s In the Mid-Midwinter, written after John Donne’s A Nocturnal on St Lucy’s Day, feels ever so apt for these bleak days of January: “There’s nothing very much to speak of anything to speak of / in the sky except a gey dreich greyness / rain-laden over Glasgow,” she writes. But “the light comes back / the light always comes back.” Lochhead’s description of the winter moon, “fat in the frosty sky among the sharpest stars”, is irresistible.

According to Colin Waters from the Scottish Poetry Library, which has published all the poems on its site, the poems are “part of the long and colourful history of Scottish poetry that Burns embodied through his life and work”. But the collection also shows how poetry has moved on.

“Someone asked me last week whether Burns wasn’t a little ‘problematic’,” Waters says, “particularly his attitude to women and sex. We’re not blind to that, and with the collection including strong contributions by, among others, Liz Lochhead, JL Williams, Katie Ailes and Jen Hadfield, we can see that contemporary Scottish poetry is at least trying to expand the voices it showcases.”

As Naughtie puts it: “We’re stepping into rich pasture here.” But the broadcaster was only considering the last 15 years of Scottish poetry. As it is indeed Burns Night, let’s see what else we might include if we were allowed to consider the full wealth of Scotland’s rich poetic heritage, whether the poetry of Burns himself – Tam o’ Shanter was voted the nation’s favourite in 2012 – or the glory of Violet Jacob’s The Wild Geese, or my own personal favourite Morgan poem, Strawberries. I’ve no agenda other than reading wonderful poetry from the land of “westlin’ winds and fernie braes, / Northern lights and siller tides,”, as Kathleen Jamie writes in Here Lies Our Land, and I hope you’ll join me

Source: Land of westlin’ winds: the best Scottish poetry for Burns Night

The best whiskies to celebrate Burns Night 

Falling dangerously close to an otherwise successful completion of a “dry January”, Burns night, makes for an appropriate occasion to fall off any rickety wagon.

Falling dangerously close to an otherwise successful completion of a “dry January”, Burns night, makes for an appropriate occasion to fall off any rickety wagon. Certainly, the celebrated 18th-century poet Robert “Rabbie” Burns, a hedonist of heroic proportions, would’ve sneered at suggestions his birthday, 25 January, be a tee-total affair.

Burns was a huge fan of whisky, despite eventually turning his hand to tax collection as an excise man, and the spirit subverted plenty of stanzas, with poems devoted to his favourite whisky, his preferred pub, while even lambasting the English for raising whisky duty.

To toast this legend of both liquor and literature, I’ve selected a collection that might have been close to his heart – quite a challenge since so many distilleries emerged after his death, when the English finally relaxed the duty.

As it happens, historians have suggested some of the drams Burns downed were less discerning, while he also sank an irresponsible dose of the stuff. So rather than go like for like, I’ve opted for some tenuous themes and advocate drinking less but better whisky.

Lowlands

In his Jolly Beggar poem Burns mentions a lowland whisky from the Kilbagie distillery, in Kincardine, which by all accounts would’ve been eye-watering gear.

Glenkinchie provides you with a softer, lighter and more balanced lowland, and the Glenkinchie 2016 Special Release is one I’ve been back to a few times.

It shows how a lighter foundation of this style can be reinforced with impressive maturation, still fresh, but sweet and spicy with it.  Glenkinchie 2016 Special Release, £309, Whisky Exchange

Highlands

Legend has it the brilliant bard liked a smooth spirit to accompany the rough element he mixed with in the pubs, and some say he often opted for a refined highland malt.

He would’ve been satisfied with Dalmore then, not least because the distillery is so inventive with expressions.[ . . .  ]

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