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Best Scotch whiskies for Burns Night: 10 to try  

If you're planning a Burns Night supper with haggis, neeps and tatties, don't forget the whisky. Richard Woodard recommends a selection of single malts and blends that are perfect for celebrating Burns Night.

‘Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither / Tak aff your dram!’

Robert Burns is Scotland’s national bard, known the world over, centuries after his death, as a passionate ambassador of Scottish culture. And he loved writing about – and drinking – whisky.

Scotch is a golden thread running through Burns’ writing. It is mentioned in political poems – such as The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer, which is quoted above – as well as lighter celebrations of the joys of ‘John Barleycorn’ (his personification of whisky).

Burns died in 1796, but his name lives on thanks to Burns Night, the annual celebration held on 25 January, his birthday. What began as a low-key gathering of a few friends has mushroomed into a global extravaganza of bagpipes, haggis and – of course – whisky.

Choosing the ‘right’ dram for Burns Night depends on personal taste and purpose. If you’re looking for an accompaniment to haggis, neeps and tatties, you might want something powerful enough to stand up to all those rich flavours.

But Robert Burns was nothing if not a champion of free thinking – so the rules are definitely there to be broken. This selection of single malts and blends below will give you some inspiration, with drams to delight fans of Sherry, bourbon and Cognac cask finishes.

Best Scotch whiskies for Burns Night

Aberfeldy 25 Year Old 125th Anniversary Limited Edition

Released in 2023 to mark the Highland distillery’s 125th anniversary, this was allowed to mature gently in refill hogsheads and butts, before spending a year or so in first-fill oloroso casks to bring some Sherry pep. Typically for ‘the golden dram’, it’s a mouthfilling combination of luscious red fruit, light caramel and honey. But there are added depths and a pleasingly dry element of nutmeg, cinnamon and tobacco leaf. Alcohol 46%

Glen Scotia 48 Year Old

Filled into cask in 1974, this hugely rare Campbeltown single malt spent more than four decades in ex-bourbon wood before stints in first-fill oloroso and PX casks. The Sherry makes itself felt with flavours of dried fruit, candied orange peel and cinnamon, but the distillery character of coastal saltiness and herbes de Provence, undercut by a prickle of menthol, stands up beautifully. Alc 40.8%

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera

It’s solera, Jim, but not as we know it… Glenfiddich’s solera vat is only half-emptied when a new bottling run happens. Then it is refilled with whisky from three cask types: ex-Sherry, virgin oak and ex-bourbon. Balanced and complex – the vat was first filled in 1998 – playing off honeyed, vanilla notes against more assertive layers of ginger cake and cherries dipped in dark chocolate. Alc 40%

Glenglassaugh Sandend

The long-awaited unveiling of the Glenglassaugh range was a highlight of 2023 – 15 years after spirit started flowing again from the stills of the previously mothballed coastal distillery. This NAS (no age statement) release is, aptly enough, like a summer’s day out at the seaside: sun-kissed citrus and tropical fruit, rich vanilla ice cream with a chocolate flake, and just a whisper of maritime salinity. Alc 50.5%

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Xordinaire

A travel retail exclusive that’s worth seeking out at the airport, this offers a twist on the traditional Blue Label blend with a finish in XO Cognac casks. The result has all the hedonistic, rich dark fruit of the original, overlaid with luscious caramel and hints of dessert pear, but with the added element of dry spice, which brings a different structure and a linear element to the palate. Alc 40%

M&S Collection Highland Single Malt by Glenfarclas Distillery

Part of a newly launched spirits collection from Marks & Spencer, this 10-year-old Glenfarclas offers the perfect introduction to its trademark combination of spirit muscle and Sherry cask maturation. Bottled at a slightly higher strength than the standard distillery 10-year-old, it’s a relatively restrained Glenfarclas, with a cereal core around which is woven a tapestry of dark toffee, cinnamon-dusted lemon meringue and vanilla. Alc 42.5%

Meikle Tòir 5 Year Old The Chinquapin One

The ‘big pursuit’ (meikle tòir in Gaelic) at The GlenAllachie Distillery on Speyside is the transformation of its spirit character following its 2017 acquisition by Master Distiller Billy Walker. These releases are the first fruits of extended (160-hour) fermentation and the limited production of peated malt. Spent bonfire smoke, citrus zest and, from Missouri Chinquapin virgin oak, roasted hazelnut and coffee roaster. Alc 48%

Mossburn Speyside Blended Malt 12 Years Old Foursquare Rum Finish

It’s easy to get carried away with adding extra flavour to a whisky via the finishing process, but this collaboration between Mossburn and the Foursquare rum distillery on Barbados is an exercise in restraint. The distillate fruit – apple and pear, moving into stone fruits – is enhanced by cask-driven layers of root ginger, black banana and treacle toffee, with a wonderfully velvety texture. Alc 57.7%

Perpetuity Blended Scotch Whisky Batch 2

This could get complicated… From The Leith Export Co, this blend is based on the infinity cask concept: it’s made up of 10.9% of Perpetuity Batch #1, plus a combination of grains (North British, Invergordon) and malts (chiefly ‘Fassiefern’, a rich malt from the Fort William area, plus Glen Moray and Miltonduff). It’s rich, with grilled pineapple and a malty, cereal core. A definite step up from the first release. Alc 46%

The Borders Distillery WS:02: The Long & Short of it

An intriguing blend that marries grain and malt whiskies, the latter is a mix of very short (55 hours) and very long (150 hours) fermentations, both matured in ex-bourbon casks. Available to order from the distillery, it mingles tart flavours of Granny Smith appeal and kiwi fruit with darker, deeper notes of fruit cake and treacle toffee. Alc 40%

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