Celebrating Burns Night with Scotch & Haggis
January 25th marks Burns Night, a celebration of the esteemed national Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Every year on this day—the honoree’s birthday—people gather to celebrate the bard. The tradition has been going on since a few years after his death and has continued strong since then. We love all things Scotland here at the Manual, so we invite you to join us in raising a glass to Burns.
Never heard of Robert Burns? Here’s the skinny:
Robert Burns (also known as Rabbie Burns, among other nicknames) was born on January 25, 1759 near Ayr, in Alloway, Scotland. Both his parents were tenant farmers and he was the youngest of seven. It wasn’t until the early 1780’s that a friend of his, Captain Richard Brown, encouraged him to become a poet. Burns continued to bust his ass at various jobs, sired a few children, moved around for work, and eventually ended up in Edinburgh, where he published Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect in 1787. Over the next decade, Burns continued to produce poetry, mostly in the Scottish dialect, to great acclaim. Many of of the poems Burns penned have gone on to popularity both officially and unofficially in Scotland over the years. After a hell of a career spanning almost two decades, Burns died in 1797 following a dental extraction. He had sired twelve children by then and had multiple affairs in his lifetime. Because of his work, he became a cultural icon across Scotland. All in all, a productive life, most would say.
In 1801, five years after his passing, some of Burns’ friends got together to celebrate his life. They ate traditional Scottish food, they drank Scotch whisky, and they recited his poems. This is the tradition that’s been handed down—more or less uninterrupted since its inception—in Burns Night and the Burns Supper.
One of the recitations that occurs at every Burns Supper is “Address to a Haggis,” a poem that celebrates one of Scotland’s national dishes (also what is supposed to be served on Burns Night). Here are the first three stanzas of one of his most famous poems, “Address to a Haggis,” which is read every year at the Burns Supper, which is part of Burns Night:
|Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.
|The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
|His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
We’ve covered who he was and what you do on Burns Night, but the most important question still remains unanswered—what should you drink on Burns Night?
Well, the simple answer is Scotch, and lots of it. If you’re not sure which Scotch to pick up in order to raise one to Burns, here are a few we suggest.
Glenfiddich India Pale Ale Cask Finish The first in the brand’s experimental line, IPA cask is finished in exactly what you think, giving it bright and floral notes to complement the whisky. ($79)
Ardbeg Uigeadail A former Jim Murray World Whisky of the Year, Uigeadail is named for is named for the loch where Ardbeg gets its water. A very deep, full whisky that is as strong on the nose as it is through the palate and finish. Smoky, but not in an overwhelming way. ($80)
Glen Scotia Victoriana Specially selected by the Master Blender, this Scotch is made in Victorian way, non chill-filtered. Subtle wood and vanilla are complement spicy, full-bodied fruit notes. ($91)
Laphroaig Lore Composed of whiskies that have been aged in sherry casks, quarter casks, and reused peated casks, all of which are between 7 and 21 years old, Lore was created to honor the generational knowledge that is passed between everyone who has or will work at Laphroaig. ($124.99)
The Macallan Rare Cask Crafted only from handpicked, Spanish oak sherry seasoned casks, this exquisite ruby-red whisky celebrates two of the Macallan’s greatest strengths: beautiful sherry seasoned oak casks and vibrant natural color ($300)
The Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 3 Created using 12 sherry butts distilled between 1989 and 1992, 11 American oak hogsheads distilled in 1989 and eight refill American Oak butts distilled in 1992 and 1993. The whisky is rich and complex, with dried fruit and cinnamon characteristics that play nicely off the vanilla and sherry notes. ($350)
Then, if you’re feeling plucky, here’s a recipe for Haggis, courtesy of the BBC.