Burns Night 2013

Well no one could claim that the weather on the run up to this tasting was not only seasonal but very Scottish. It certainly got everyone in the mood for a Wee Dram.

This was our annual homage to the poor farmers son born 25th January 1759, 253 years ago, who grew to be Scotland’s National Bard – Robbie Burns.

All over the World in cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong and even London people of all nationalities not just Scots, gather together at this time of year to celebrate the life of Robbie Burns. And nowhere in any of these cities even Edinburgh will they have such a great range of whiskies as we had here in Bakewell.

Wee Dram BlogSo we gathered at the historical Rutland Arms Hotel in the centre of Bakewell , welcomed by the swirl of the bagpipes courtesy of Piper Jess (the only person better dressed than me!).

The evening started with the saying of Grace Selkirk by my father Ray followed by our first whisky.

The Robert Burns Single Malt – 43% is from Arran Distillers who are Patrons of The Robert Burns World Federation so are allowed to produce this tribute whisky. This is a new bottling brought out in the autumn. Arran is always a light bodied, gentle whisky and this expression is no exception. Arran of course is just off the Ayrshire coast where Robbie spent so much of his short life.

While enjoying this we had a lovely Scotch Broth.

Glen Scotia 12 years old – 46%. Glen Scotia is from Campbeltown and is often overlooked in favour of its neighbour Springbank. The 12 y/o is a new bottling, actually, we were expecting it a week or so before the tasting, but we only got it, and tried it, two days before. Luckily it was exactly the whisky we were expecting light and fresh, honeyish with citrus fruitiness, very complex. It’s really great to see a new range of Glen Scotia whisky released – the distillery was closed in the 1990’s and since 2000 has been owned by Loch Lomand Distillery – and it has a highland cow on the front so obviously a good choice for a farmer.

And then out came:

The Puddin Haggis noo sae rare wi’ neeps mashed Brocht in tae the skirl o’ the Pipes an’ addressed by Mr Adrian Murray. The address was given with great presence and drama. The speaker cutting a dashing figure in full Highland Dress.

Incidently my daughter’s Brownie pack were having a Burn’s themed meeting on Thursday and Jade – my eldest – took me in full Highland Dress as a prop for her talk on Scotland. One of the girls thanked me for showing them my dress. Not sure if any went home and told their parents that Jade’s Daddy was there without trousers on. Sorry I digress.

Edradour Port Cask Matured – 2003 – 46%. From Scotland’s Smallest Distillery Edradour, situated near Pitlochry, in Perthshire.This delightful little distillery is owned by our friend Andrew Symington, who also owns the independent bottlers Signatory. Edradour is a proper farm sized distillery with very little stills producing a big complex spirit. This bottling has spent its entire maturation in an oak Hogshead cask – 250 litres – that previously held Ruby port. The casks were filled in November 2003 and bottled in July 2012 – only 3400 bottles. Gives a rich berry flavour.

Wee Dram BlogAberlour 16 years old – 43%. The town is actually called Charlestown of Aberlour, it sits on the river Spey and is a wonderful place, at the Southern end of the village is the distillery at the Northern end Walkers shortbread Factory. Aberlour was originally founded in 1826 a couple of miles downstream from where it is now. A fire in 1879 all but destroyed the original distillery, the rebuild on its current site was to use water from St Drostan’s well. There was another devastating fire in 1898 resulting in another rebuild – by Charles Doig – famous because he came up with the now ubiquitous Pagoda head. This 16 y/o is matured first in American Oak casks and then is finished in Sherry casks – it’s big bodied and rich.

Cranachan followed the Haggis. A dessert made with Rasberries, Oats and Cream.

Linkwood 15 years old – 43%. One of my favourite whiskies, I think it’s a great example of a well-rounded sherry cask matured whisky, 15 years old my favourite age for whisky, it’s got great rich fruity, fruit cakey, flavours. Linkwood is a Speyside distillery on the outskirts of Elgin, owned by Diageo who have been investing greatly in their Scotch Distilleries. The Distillery had an upgrade in 2011 and they are thinking of increasing capacity again. This bottling is from the Elgin based independent bottlers, Gordon & MacPhail.

Secret Stills Islay 2000 – 45%. This is from Gordon and MacPhails Secret Stills range, but it’s not very Secret as they put a big clue on the back – so we know it’s Bowmore, the oldest distillery on the island of Islay founded 1779. Like most Islay whiskies, Bowmore is peaty, but unlike most bottlings of Bowmore, which have some sherry cask matured whisky, this is matured in First Fill American Oak ex bourbon casks – so more Vanilla flavours less rich sherry notes – and more Peaty Smoky flavour.

Wee Dram BlogFinally we had the Toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns with full highland honours – you had to be there. Next year will be great as 25th January 2014 is a Saturday.