On Saturday 23rd January 2016 we gathered to pay Homage to Scotland's National Bard, who was born to poor farming folk on 25th January 1759, yet despite his humble begins his life and achievements are still celebrated more than 220 years after his death. – Robert Burns.

The AddressAt The Wee Dram we celebrate in our own way. All over the world people of different nations, not only Scots, will be celebrating Burns life, in great cities like London, Tokyo, New York, Edinburgh and Glasgow they might be enjoying poetry, and toasts and speeches, we have a little of these things, but not as much as some. However nowhere not in London, Tokyo, New York, or even Edinburgh and Glasgow will they have as good whisky as we enjoyed.

We were once again entertained by our favourite Piper, Jess, and the Haggis was piped in and Addressed in accordance to tradition. The Haggis this year was Hunted Wild Haggis, we had a small team out in Highlands hunting for a few days. Obviously it was Highland Haggis, the Jura Haggis is far too wild to capture.

The Halesome Fairin was excellent, Scotch Broth, and the Cranachan were great, but the Puddin Haggis, accompanied by Neeps and Taties, was the finest I have ever tasted, and I’ve sampled some great beasts in the past.

The Puddin Haggis


The Whiskies

Strathmill 2000 – Connoisseurs Choice – 46%       more info

  • From independent Bottlers Gordon & McPhail of Elgin.
  • Distillery is owned by Diageo, situated at Keith. Produces 2.6 million litres mainly for use in J&B.
  • Situated on the river Isla – southern side of Keith - started life as a Strathisla mills – converted to a distillery in 1891.
  • It was given the name Strathmill in 1895 when the distillery was brought by W & A Gilbey the gin producer.
  • Couple of years ago the river Isla burst its banks and three people were trapped by the floods in the distillery, The fire service came to rescue them but they fought them off bravely.
  • I don’t know if there has been any floods this year
  • This bottling is from 1st fill Bourbon Barrels.  


Edradour 10 y/o – 40%   more info

  • There are a few distilleries with smaller output than Edradour, although the stills are the smallest legal size, they still call themselves Scotland’s Smallest Distillery. I think they are Scotland’s smallest serious distillery.
  • They are producing around 130,000 litres a year
  • Owned by our friend Andrew Symington who also owns Signatory Vintage independent bottlers.
  • A proper old fashioned farm distillery, founded in 1825, well they got their licence in 1825 were distilling without a licence before that date.
  • A lot of the equipment is very old so Andrew spends most of his time fixing the machinery, regardless of whether the machines need fixing. He does say the distillery is his big toy.
  • As they have small stills and worm tubs they make a very heavy complex spirit full of character. Matured mainly in sherry casks.


Spey Tenne – 46%    more info

  • From Speyside distillery which is owned by Harvey’s of Edinburgh, headed by John Harvey McDonough.  Harvey’s have been in distilling since 1770 when they opened Yorker distillery, they owned Bruichladdich at one time.
  • They have used the SPEY name since Christmas Day 1787 when John Harvey selected a 17 y/o for the family.
  • The name was revised in the 1990’s by John Harvey McDonough using whisky from Speyside distillery and has been selling the whisky mainly in Taiwan.
  • Harvey’s brought Speyside Distillery from the Christy Family in 2012.
  • They have used Footballer Michael Owen to promote the brand,
  •  This Tenne is a multi-vintage – with whisky as young as 8 y/o- it is finished in fresh Tawny Port Casks for 6 months.
  • Limited run of 18,000 – casks come from a small family run winery – Quinto do Filoco.

The Whiskies

Macallan Sienna – 43%   more info

  • This very famous distillery sits above the Spey at Easter Elchies near Craigellachie.
  • Founded in 1824.
  • It’s owned by Edrington Group. Back in the 1960’s Macallan decided they were going to be the Rolls Royce of Single Malt whisky. In 1965 they increased the number of stills from 6-12.  In 1974 & 75 more stills were added making 21. In spring last year work was started on doubling the size of the distillery, it’s expected to be finished in 2017.
  • These stills are all small and have sharp angled Lyne arms, giving a rich, heavy complex spirit.
  • They use ex-sherry casks having them shipped whole from Jerez, so as not to lose any flavour.
  • Due to their great success in recent years they have dropped using age statements – so this expression is called Sienna, from their 1824 series.
  • If they don’t have an age statement then there is more flexibility available when doing a bottling they can use older and younger whisky.
  • Sienna refers to the colour, they use natural colours so the darker the whisky the more mature. This is the third in the range Gold and Amber being lighter.

 

Scapa Skiren – 40%    more info

  • Situated in the Orkneys, overlooking Scapa Flow.
  • They opened a visitor centre, for the first time in April 2015, can’t wait to visit.
  • Founded in 1885, it was mothballed in 1994. Was run by Highland Park staff for a few months every year to keep it from falling apart.
  • In 2004 it was reopened and £2.1 million was spent modernising.
  • Brought by Chivas Brothers in 2005, and second phase of modernising carried out.
  •  This bottling Skiren, which is a Norse word meaning “Glittering Bright Skies”, is a no age statement, matured in 1st fill bourbon casks.
  • I really enjoyed this Dram when I first tried it – lots of Tropical fruit flavour, Pineapple and Grapefruit. Definably reminds me of an Island – but Caribbean rather than Orkney.

Piper Jess 

Caol Ila 2003 – Connoisseurs Choice – 46%  more info

  • From the magical isle of Islay, a typical peaty one.
  • I find Caol Ila a little bit softer and floral compared to other Islay’s.
  • From the biggest distillery on the island,  founded in 1846, completely rebuilt in 1973-74.
  • Can produce 6.5 m litres a year – 98% destined to go into blends. As most Burns nights will be enjoying blended whiskies this evening – most of them will be tasting a little bit of Caol Ila, as it is a component in many blends including Johnnie Walker and Bells.
  • This bottling from Gordon and MacPhails Connoisseurs Choice range – matured in 1st fill bourbon casks.

 

We finished with the Toast to the Immortal Memory with full Highland Honours!

 Ladies upstanding – Gentlemen – stand on your chair – Right foot on the table.

 

 

Toast to the Immortal Memory

On 25th January 1759 William and Agnes Burness were blessed with the birth of their first son, they named the baby Robert. The family were poor tenant farmers, and from a very early age Rob helped his father on the land. Despite their poverty Robert’s father provided him and his three brothers with a Tutor – John Murdoch thus the boys learned to read and write, allowing the young Rob to develop a passion for poetry. As he grew he developed other passions mainly women and of cause Whisky. He started writing poetry at the age of 15 with his first verse – My Hansome Nell.

 During Robs life there were great changes going on in the world, when he was born it was not many years since the bloody consequences of the 1745 Jacobite uprising, there were also revolutions in America and France, but possibly more importantly there were social changes going on in the Scottish countryside. The land had for generations been farmed by poverty stricken Tenants, who paid rent to the Lairds. This was changing many previously open fields were being fenced in to create larger more efficient farms – changing the look of the country – and many tenants tried to escape poverty by moving to the Cities.


Hard at WorkThis turmoil gave inspiration to Robbie, his strong feelings were aroused aiding his writing and the social changes fuelled his desire to record older songs which had never been written down before and could have been lost.

Robbies first book “Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” was published in April 1786 in Kilmarnock – the following year it was published in Edinburgh, Robbie moved to the big city. Despite publishing five more volumes of Poetry and songs Burns fared little better than many other migrants and returned to Dumfries married Jean Armour and took a lease on a Farm. Robert was not a good farmer he gained work as an Excise Man working mainly to stop the import of illegal brandy – he gave up farming completely in 1795 and moved into the town of Dumfries.

In September 1795 he contracted Rhematic fever from which he never recovered and died in July 1796 at the age of 37.

Today he is remembered not only because he was a great poet but also because he was a common man who through all his life worked hard to improve himself and the lot of his family he had friends and admirers from all walks of life rich and poor alike. There is reputed to be over 400 of Burn’s songs still in existence including the most sung song in the world “Auld Lang Syne” Burns was a revered influence on both Wordsworth and Keats and is celebrated all over the world 200 years after his death.

 

To Robbie Burns.