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Whisky connections for Burns Night

22 Jan 2018 0 Comments
Whisky connections for Burns Night

Whisky connections for Burns Night


Burns night is an evening to celebrate the life of Robbert Burns. The night itself is the 25th, the date of his death. In memory of his life and achievements it is tradition to have an evening of celebrations, and to enjoy the evening like he lived his life, Scotch whisky poems, Haggis, and family and friends. Below we have listed 4 whiskies that have a connection to our national bard.

Rascally Liquor

The Annandale distillery was founded in 1836 in Dumfriesshire and to this day is one of the oldest distilleries in operation in Scotland. It hasn’t been in continues operation however. In 1918 the owners at the time “Jonnie Walker” decided to close the distillery and Annandale was thought to be lost to distilleries of the past. In recent years the Scotch whisky industry has boomed with many new and old distilleries have started to produce spirit. This case was true for Annandale when on 3rd of November 2014 spirit began to flow from there stills for the first time in almost 100years. 3 years later on 15th November 2017 the first whisky from the rebirthed distillery was taken from oak casks and bottled completing the dream for any Scotch whisky lover. In the interim between spirit being produced and the waiting for 3 years legally required to mature spirit to whisky many of new distilleries in Scotland resort to producing gin. The advantage being that it doesn’t require maturation, is extremely cost effective to produce, there is a high demand for Gin and it keeps capital flowing in while you make Scotland’s most famous and luxurious product. Annandale have kept true to their primary purpose and haven’t been tempted by the call of Juniper and botanicals. Instead to offset the expense of continues cask buying while you wait for maturation Annandale have been selling their new make spirit. Rascally liquor is cleric (new make spirit) from the Annandale distillery. For a simpler explanation it is effectively Scottish moonshine. Un-matured spirit with no colour and only three ingredients like a single malt scotch whisky; water, malted barley and yeast. The name was chosen, and how this all ties in with Burns night, because of references burns made about lowland whiskies in a letter in 1788 to John Tennant “The whisky of this country is a most rascally liquor; and by consequence only drank by the most rascally part of the inhabitants.” Many will be aware that burns was an excise man around Dumfriesshire hence the link to the Annandale distillery.  The rascally nature of the spirit is exemplified in one of Burns' most famous poems “Tam O Shanter”. In which, Tam having been a little tipsy on whisky, whistles at a “Cutty Sark” (a lady in a short dress) who turns out to be a witch. After a daring escape on his horse Meg he gets away with the witches only laying claim to poor Megs tail. The graphics of the bottle capture many parts of the scene written by burns. Tam is seen on both expressions riding Meg with the double “L” in “rascally” symbolising the key stone on the bridge they must cross to reach safety. There are two expressions; one un-peated which you can see Tam facing right and riding into town. The colour is orange and bright and you see ghostly smoke forming the shape of him heading to town. The second; a peated expression that see’s Tam riding to left away from his pursuers. It is darker and purple in colour capturing the late nature of his escape and a ghostly figure formed from the smoke. Whisky now a days is a much more refined product that would have been drank in burns day. New make spirit isn’t for everyone and perhaps not an everyday drink but anyone who has ever tried it can testify that it is an experience worth having. I personally love the deference and Varity between new make spirit from distillery to distillery especially when you considering no cask influence and only three ingredients used. If you have never tried I can think of a better time than in the run up to Burn Night on 25/01/18. Have a toast to Great man himself with a drink that would have been similar to what he himself would have drank from a place where he worked. You won’t get a piece of burns closer to that.



Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark is a blend from the famed Erdington group who own other brands such as famous grouse and distilleries such as The Macallan, Highland Park and The Glenturret (Scotland’s oldest 1775). The brand takes its name from captain Macoy’s ship; a tea clipper (one of the last and fastest ever made) that smuggled high quality Scotch whisky to the USA during prohibition. The ship was officially named when it was launched in Dumbarton on 22nd November 1869. The original owner was Jock Wills who had the named suggested to him by the ships designer Hercules Linton. It is a courious choice of name especially when consider that the reason Tam escaped in the poem was because the “cutty Sark” couldn’t cross water. Possible the reason is because Jock had another ship in his fleet called “Halloween” another word made famous by Burns. It was officially named by Mrs Moodie the wife of the first mast of the ship George Moodie when it was launched. She changed her name twice both times after she was sold to Portuguese companies. In 1895 she changed her name to “Ferreira” although referred to by the sailors as “pequina camisole” which makes “short Nightie” the same translation as Cutty Sark. The second was in 1922 when she was called “Maria Do Amparo” for less than a year before being bought by Captain Dowman of Falmouth who reinstated the original name. The front of the ship has “Nannie Dee” (the name of the witch giving chase to Tam and Meg in the poem) reaching out. The crew would often put a frayed rope in her hands to symbolise the tail that she ripped from Meg. The ship made its last voyage under sail in 1938 when it left Falmouth harbour and sailed to the Thames. In 1954 she was moved to a custom dry dock in Greenwich south east London where she remains today. Her legacy isn’t over however as she is now on display as a museum. Despite two fires and a long time of service she is still available to be viewed by the public thanks to extensive restoration totalling over £30million. Burns night is about celebrating the great works of Scotland favourite poet and the Legacy he left. This ship is a monument to that. If you’re in London and walk passed please take a moment to remember the man that has given Whisky and Scotland such a rich history.

Timorous beastie

Burns wrote many poems in his time some of which are famous around the world, often without people even realising. “To a mouse” is one of burns best known works. He wrote the poem in November 1785 just 10 years after Scotland’s oldest distillery Glenturret was founded. It is believed that he wrote poem while still holding the plough. Hopefully ploughing a field of barley that was destined for whisky production, but perhaps that is wishful thinking. A particular line in the poem was made even more famous in 1937 when it was used as the title of the novel “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. The Full line burns wrote was “The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,” and meant the best laid plans of mice and men often go askew. Although many have people have taken parts of burns poems now we have a whisky that has too, the timorous beastie by Douglas Laing. Timorous beastie is how burns refers to a field mouse whose house he destroyed accidentally while working in the fields.  The opening line goes “Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy beastie!”. Loosely translates to; little, well groomed, cowering, timid beast, Oh, what a panic is in your heart! As you can imagine Douglas Laing have incorporated a field mouse smiling out from the. Douglas Laing & co is an independent bottler based in Glasgow. Founded in 1948 by Fred Douglas Lang and is one of few Scotch whisky companies to still be family run. In 2013 Fred and Stewart Laing decided to divide their assets and separate. Fred and his daughter Cara stayed with Douglas Laing & co while Stewart with his two sons, Scott and Andrew, left to form a new company; Hunter Laing & co. Both companies have been successful since the split with hunter Laing building a £8million Ardnahoe distillery headed by ex-bruichladdich legend Jim McEwan. Production is due to begin the summer of 2018. Douglas Laing have announced plans to build an as yet unnamed distillery on the river Clyde in Glasgow for the tidy sum of £10.7million. Again production isn’t due to begin until late 2018. Douglas Laing has a range of whiskies called the “remarkable regional malts”. As you can guess they show case the characteristics associated with certain regions. In 2009 “Big Peat” was born, using several whiskies from Islay famed for their smoky/peaty taste. In 2013 Big peat was joined by “Scallywag” showcasing Speyside malts followed the following year by “timorous beastie”. Now there is also the “epicurean” containing lowland malts and the Gauldrons containing Campbeltown malts and rock oyster containing malts from Scotland isles. Timorous Beastie, like the rest of the remarkable regional malts, is a blended malt. It is not a “blend” which combines Single Malts and Grain whisky combined but rather a combination of different single malts put together. All whiskies in this range are bottled at least 46%ABV, are un-chillfilterd and produced in numbered batches so as comparisons can be made as time goes on. Timorous Beastie contains only Highland malt whiskies the number of which is not disclosed but do included whisky from Dalmore, Glengoyne and Glen Garioch. It has won several awards in 2015 including Gold at the Global Scotch Whisky Masters and two silvers for “New Launch at World Whisky Awards” and “Blended Malt Scotch whisky” (IIWC). Timorous beastie is an excellent dram to have at any time but Burns Night is a special night in Scottish culture. You must choose your nip carefully when considering a toast to one of the most important figures in Scottish history. For me the timorous beastie is an obvious and exceptional choice for you to raise a glass on the 25/01/2018 and remember Robert Burns.



The Arran & burns

There is a whisky that hasn’t used a line from burns works and have instead adopted the name of the man himself. The Arran Distillery on the isle of Arran is one of the youngest in Scotland. Situated in the north of the island in a village called lochranza. Building only began in December 1994. The first spirit was produced the following year 29th of June. The distillery visitor centre was officially opened by the queen on 9th august 1997 Three years later on 25th of July 1998 the first whisky from the distillery was born. There had not been whisky made legally on the island for 160 years. Actor Ewan McGregor as well as many other guest and workers were there to sample from the first ever cask. Since then they have produced 10, 18 and even 20 year old whisky. After 22 years of production the demand and range of whisky from the Arran Distillery can only increase. So how does Arran tie in with burns? Well it doesn’t. Robert burns as far we know never went to the isle, however he almost certainly would have been aware of its whisky. There were several illicit stills on Arran producing what was regarded at the time as excellent malt. Burns was an excise man in Ayrshire which was then a hub for Illegal whisky trade. Burns father owned a farm in the area too and on clear days could probably see the island from the farm. However, any burn’s word that is attached to whisky is just that, a word attached to the whisky. Glenturret, Bowmore, Strathisla, Bal Blair and Oban are the only distilleries that are still produce Whisky that were also established before burns death in 1796 and have no association with burns. The charity “Robert burns world federation” was founded in 1855 in London and are established to protect and educate all things burns. They officially endorse the Arran Distillery as the provider of Robert Burns’ whisky. I do wish there was a stronger connection from the Arran distillery to the man himself rather than just that he lived in that general region. There are two products that bear his name. The single malt is a 43% ABV non-age statement whisky comprising mostly of ex bourbon cask maturation with a slight sherry influence. It won a silver medal in 2013 at the IWSC completion. There is also a blend bottled at 40%ABV with a high proportion of the base malt coming for the Arran distillery. So if you’re new to whisky or you have had so many over the years that you can’t quiet choose the right one to have on the night, then the Arran distillery might well have made it a little easier on you. It makes perfect sense to enjoy a night of burns with a whisky that has his name on the bottle.



We at the Whiski Shop will be enjoying the evening, with a dram in hand, good company and a steaming plate of Haggis, neeps and tatties.


Slainte Mhath, and have a fantastic burns supper when it comes.



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