Looking to toast Scotland's national bard this month? Here are five great whiskies (and a bonus rum) we recommend to make the most of Burns Night.

“O Whisky! soul o’ plays an’ pranks! Accept a Bardie’s gratefu’ thanks!” – Robert Burns 1759 – 1796

The cold, dark month of January has little in the way of respite to offer, luckily enough for us Scots we do have one night of this month to celebrate.

For January 25th is Burns night, the night we celebrate the great bard himself; though, as with any Scottish party we are inviting the whole world to join in.

So, this Burn’s night, why not crack out the Haggis, neeps and tatties (Haggis, turnip and potato for those of you not familiar with Scots) and partner it with the national drink.

And no, we aren’t talking about Irn-Bru, though that would be the perfect non-alcoholic alternative, we are of course talking about whisky.

We’ve picked out five great whiskies to toast the man himself on the night (and enjoy on other nights too).

For those who are just starting out on their journey with whisky then might we recommend something a little more subtle.

Glen Grant 10 year old

(Price: approx £30, Abv: 40%, Size: 700ml)

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One of the best value Speyside single malts on the market, the Glen Grant 10 year old has won several plaudits recently (including massive praise from none other than Jim Murray) and with its notes of citrus fruit and its light feel on the mouth, it’s a shining example of that traditional Speyside style (one that’s become a bit lost with the recent fad for peat and sherry casks in the region) that Burns himself would surely have enjoyed.

The bard was endemically tied to whisky – he was of course, an excise-man at one point – and he was fairly well known to celebrate the entrepreneurship of those who distilled their whisky a little more illicitly.

That’s why we’ve gone for our next pick.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm

(Price: approx £65, Abv: 40%, Size: 700ml)

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Although illicit stills are hard to find these days, the small Islay farm distillery of Kilchoman comes close to the feel and nature of those small hidden stills.

Perfect for fans of a peatier dram, their Loch Gorm bottling is a particularly flavoursome, punchy little malt; like liquid charcoal in a glass, the sherry cask maturation adds a subtle balance of fruit to complement the smoke.

For those of you looking for something a little less peaty but still in the traditional style then the next offering might be for you.

Old Pulteney 12 year old

(Price: approx £30, Abv: 40%, Size: 700ml)

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Hailing from what was, before the arrival of Wolfburn, the most notherly distillery on the mainland, Old Pulteney is a wonderful example of a maritime malt, taking its character from the fishing village of Wick in which it is located.

Matured wholly in ex-bourbon casks, the Old Pulteney 12-years-old is the definitive expression in the Old Pulteney family. Mixing the citrus fruit flavours of lemon and lime with honey and a hint od coastal sea air, it’s a distincitve character worthy of those looking for something a little more complex.

If you are looking for something a little more sherried then look further than the…

Aberlour A’Bunadh

(Price: approx £35-45, Abv: 58-61% abv, Size: 700ml)

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A true cult classic, Aberlour’s cask strength sherry monster is a great example of quality whisky at great value. (If you are quick Amazon are offering bottles of Batch 56 for £35, which is a steal)

Translated from the Gaelic as ‘of the origin’ or ‘the original’, the producers say it has been made in homage to Aberlour’s founder, James Fleming.

The whisky itself is all spiced orange and dried fruits on the nose, with a lovely, rich finish filled with those spiced orange notes coupled with dark chocolate and cream.

The geekier among you will have noticed that it’s available in different batches, meaning that every bottle from each batch will offer something different.

Tomatin 18 year old

(Price: approx £, Abv: 46%, Size: 700ml) 

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For those looking for something a little more decadent, this 18-year-old from Tomatin, which we recently rediscovered, is a truly delightful dram and a perfect example of a far lighter style of sherry cask whisky that is the perfect balance between spirit and wood.

Recently repackaged to give their bottles a little more class and to delicately reflect the whisky inside, this is the perfect dram for sharing with that special person on Burns night.

It is a little-known fact that Rabbie Burns almost left Scotland for the Caribbean to be a sugar plantation owner before his poems made him famous and there is little doubt he’d see the humour in our bonus choice.

Surprisingly, it’s not a whisky, but it is an excellent spirit distilled in Scotland – it is in fact a rum, produced incredibly, in the north east of Scotland.

Dark Matter Spiced Rum

(Price: approx £35, Abv: 40%, Size: 700ml)

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Established by brothers Jim and John Ewen, the Banchory distillery has been operating since April 2015 and their richly spiced rum is made from sugarcane molasses with added ginger, green and black peppercorns, and dried long pepper.

Perfect for those looking for an alternative to Scotland’s national drink.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

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