The Robert Burns Single Malt
This is an obvious one given the name. This underrated gem comes from the Lochranza distillery on the rugged island of Arran. The Isle of Arran Distillers are the only whisky company to be officially endorsed by the World Burns Federation.
When the partnership was formed in 1998, the distillery was the closest to Burns’ Ayrshire home in the village of Alloway. He would have seen the lofty peaks of Arran every day across the Firth of Clyde.
This is a wonderfully light and malty whisky. Delicate biscuity notes are complemented superbly by crisp green apple, lemon zest and fresh vanilla pod.
A lovely creaminess sits on the palate that is complemented with a subtle warming spice – think of cinnamon and gingerbread. The Robert Burns single malt is versatile whether taken neat – it cuts through the spiciness and richness of haggis well – or mixed as a long drink or in a cocktail.
Lochlea 5 Years Old
The Ayrshire farm distillery of Lochlea is a relative newcomer to the Scotch whisky scene and one perfectly fitting for Burns Night – Robert Burns owned, lived, and worked on the farm where the distillery is now located.
It is one of only two true field-to-bottle distilleries in Scotland with every grain of barley used to produce spirit grown on the farm.
This limited edition 5-year-old celebrates the distillery’s fifth anniversary and is released especially for Burns Night 2024. Five different cask types have been used – two ex-bourbon, two ex-Oloroso sherry and one ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry – including two from the very first distillation in August 2018.
This is a whisky laced with fruit and sweetness – think of raisin, prune, and baked pineapple with a twist of candied lemon. Add in toasted hazelnut, cinnamon spice, and vanilla sugar, and you have a stunner that belies its youthful age. Lochlea is definitely a distillery to watch.
Lagavulin 16 years old
If you fancy something peaty and smoky for your Burns Night soirée, then it is difficult to look beyond this classic single malt from Islay.
While others may possess more power and brashness (think of Ardbeg and Laphroaig especially), Lagavulin oozes a definitive class and sophistication. The distillery sits on the rocky southern coast of Islay, which is known as ‘Queen of the Hebrides’, and Lagavulin translates as ‘mill by the bay’ from the local Gaelic.
This iconic whisky will match perfectly with even the spiciest haggis. Notes of toffee and butterscotch marry superbly with cracked black pepper and clove.
But the main feature is the peat smoke. The famous whisky island is known for this style and Lagavulin is no different. Imagine hot bonfire ash, sooty smoke and toasted oak combined with damp moss, drying seaweed and a hint of iodine. They are all there and create a heady mix. Such a great whisky.
Ballantine’s 17 years old
While many focus on single malts, a good Scotch blended whisky is difficult to beat. A few are better than the exquisite Ballantine’s 17 years old.
This whisky regularly wins top medals in spirits competitions around the world and is one of the most highly awarded blends out there. It was first released in 1930 and the closely guarded recipe has remained largely unchanged in the 90+ years since.
Ballantine’s 17 years old offers a vibrant mix of characteristics and contains a high proportion of well-aged soft, gentle Speyside single malts in the blend.
There is an abundance of depth and complexity that gives the whisky a multi-layered quality. Expect notes of soft toffee, fudge and stewed apple with plump sultana, raisin, and candied orange. Add in a hint of baking spice and a whisp of smoke, and you have an absolute classic. Perfect neat or on the rocks, but also makes a killer cocktail.