Whisky expert Colin Hampden-White shares his pick of IWSC 2017 winning whiskies to enjoy with your Burns Night celebrations
From blended whisky to single malt, from smoky to sherried, from spicy to harmonious, there are more whiskies than ever from which to choose to celebrate Burns Night, a traditional celebration on the 25th of January, which is Scottish poet Robert Burns’ birthday. So which whiskies go well with haggis neeps and tatties? Here are a few suggestions that should hit the spot, slàinte!
Before the evening really gets going, let’s start with a blend. Blends by nature should be harmonious and balanced, like an orchestra rather than a soloist. This whisky is certainly that. It is malty with honey, citrus, touches of spice and chocolate. It is made with at least 40 single malts and four single grains; this is harmony in a glass.
Where to buy: Amazon, £56
Smokin’; Lagavulin 16 can be found in nearly all bars and spirits’ shops, and is a favourite for whisky experts. At around £50, it is one of the bargains of the whisky world. Complex and rich with balanced peaty smoky notes and a touch of citrus, it is a must for smoke-heads this Burns Night.
Where to buy: Master of Malt, £48
Bring a little sunshine to a winter’s night with a rum cask-finished Balvenie. Loved by mixologists, it has a balanced mix of sweet tropical flavours mixed with lots of vanilla, toffee and a hint of orange. Perfect for mixing it up or matching with a dessert.
Where to buy: Master of Malt, £51.83
Another whisky from the William Grant & Sons’ stable, and another loved by mixologists, this is perfect for Burns Night. It is rich and spicy, with sherry notes and a touch of candied fruit. Why not start the evening with an Old Fashioned; this whisky could have been made for it.
Where to buy: Master of Malt, £38.95
Dr. Bill Lumsden has had bespoke American casks made, heavily toasted and then seasoned with Malmsey wine and left to bake in the Madeiran sun. There is a sumptuous mix of deep wine flavours with honey, almonds, apricots and a little orange pith. Smooth and easy, Bacalta should hit the right spot.
Where to buy: Master of Malt, £80.40
This is a big brash whisky, but one wouldn’t expect anything else from America. At 53% it packs a big punch, but is full of fruity esters mixed with brown sugar that turn to molasses warming the palate. Undertones of honey and vanilla make this a luscious whisky.
Where to buy: Master of Malt, £92.95
Showing how well the other side of the world is making whisky is Kavalan from Taiwan. This whisky has an incredible mix of mangoes and spice. The tropical fruits carry right through the nose to the finish, making it a mouth-watering, juicy dram. This distillery is less than 15 years old, and is already winning many awards.
Where to buy: The Whisky Exchange, £59.45
Firstly laid down in ex-bourbon casks and left to sleep for 21 years, the whisky was then moved into Oloroso sherry butts for a further two years. This mix of bourbon and sherry is a match made in heaven. Vanilla and citrus notes joined by honey and chocolate covered raisins, with a touch of citrus, make this a delicious dram.
Where to buy: Amazon, £106.20
This legendary, closed distillery needs no introduction. This Port Ellen has a wonderful creamy mouthfeel with chunks of charred pineapple. Sichuan peppers mix with malty barley notes and vanilla. Orange peel and lemon sherbets are in the background. It has a very long finish bringing in brown sugar and citrus chews. Complex and sublime.
Where to buy: Master of Malt, £999.95
Now, Glenglassaugh 40 Year Old may not be the cheapest whisky in the world, it may not be the most expensive, but it was my favourite of all the winners at this year’s IWSC awards. It is complex and rich, with highlights of citrus, spice and umami. The mouth feel is full and comforting and the finish goes on and on. It is the perfect dram on which end Burns Night.