Looking to toast Scotland's national bard this month? Here are eight 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 to look forward to.

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

So, for this year’s Burns festivities, 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 eight great whiskies to toast the man himself on the night (and enjoy on other days too).

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

Great whiskies to enjoy on Burns Night

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, and has won several plaudits recently, including massive praise from none other than that little-known author of the Whisky Bible, Jim Murray.

With its notes of citrus fruit and its light feel on the mouth, it’s a shining example of that lighter 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 and a perfect dram for beginners.

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 Sanaig

(Price: approx £51.95, Abv: 46%, Size: 700ml)

Picture: The Whisky Exchange

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 Sanaig bottling is a particularly flavoursome, punchy little malt; like liquid charcoal in a glass, the combination of oloroso-sherry and bourbon 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)

Hailing from what was, before the arrival of Wolfburn, the most northerly 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.

Ailsa Bay

(Price: approx £55, Abv: 48.9%, Size: 700ml) 

Born in Alloway in Ayrshire, Burns wouldn’t have far to travel these days for his nearest dram, just along the coast to Ayrshire lies the excellent Ailsa Bay, distilled with stunning view of Ailsa Craig, a sight that Burns himself would have seen often in his own lifetime.

The whisky itself is one of the first lowland drams to be peated and is a wonderful drink to warm you up on these cold winter nights.

Glenkinchie Distllers Edition

(Price: approx £51, Abv: 43%, Size: 700ml) 

Burns may have began life in Ayrshire but like many aspirational young people at the time, he headed to the country’s capital to make his name.

Though Edinburgh doesn’t have its own single malt distillery (yet – Holyrood Distillery is set to go online this year) it does have a cracking little neighbour in Glenkinchie that is well worth checking out.

We recommend trying the Distillers Edition which is richer than the ten year old due to being finished in amontillado-sherry casks to give it a delightful fruity flavour.

Tomatin 18 year old

(Price: approx ££77.95, 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.

What better way to toast your Burns supper than with a malt produced especially for the occasion – a whisky endorsed by the World Burns Federation no less.

Arran Distillery’s Robert Burns Single Malt

(Price: approx £30, Abv: 43%, Size: 700ml) 

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Arran distillery’s Burns malt is a zesty and malt-filled with notes of apples and pears, perfect for complementing your haggis, neeps and tatties.

Finally, it is also a little-known fact that Burns almost left Scotland for the Caribbean to be a book-keeper on a sugar plantation 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, though it is an excellent spirit distilled in 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, making it perfect for those looking for an alternative to Scotland’s national drink this Burns Night.

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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