Burns Night Basics

By Neat Pour Staff |

Today, January 25 is Burns Night. The date marks the birthday of a Scotland’s most famed writer. However, the celebrations surrounds the anniversary have grown into something far greater. Nowhere else is the trinity of Scotch Whisky, oration, and haggis so beautifully paired. Neat Pour offers you some of the basics.

Who was this Burns character?

Robbie Burns is regarded as Scotland’s national poet. His aliases include “Rabbie Burns,” “Scotland’s Favourite Son,” the “Ploughman Poet,” “Robden of Solway Firth,” the “Bard of Ayrshire” and sometimes simply “The Bard”.

What did he write?

You’re most likely familiar with Burns famed version of the folk song “Auld Lang Syne” a.k.a. the New Year’s Eve song. Burns also penned Scotland’s unofficial national anthem, “Scots Wha Hae”. The poet’s other hits include “A Red, Red Rose”, “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”, “To a Louse”, “To a Mouse”, “The Battle of Sherramuir”, “Tam o’ Shanter” and “Ae Fond Kiss”.

What happens on Burns Night?

First of all, there is haggis. A lot of haggis. There are also bagpipes involved.

Burns Supper historically involves a lot of ritual beginning with the ‘Piping of the Guests’ and then continuing with a speech by the host, various toasts, and reading of Burns’ works. However, the undisputed star is the haggis. The oats and organ meat stuffed stomach is ceremonially carried out while the piper plays. Then, Burns’ masterwork “Address to the Haggis” is read. After the recitation, it’s time to toast the haggis with whisky and then it is finally eaten.

Piping the Haggis, Courtesy Galt Museum & Archives on The Commons

What about the Scotch Whisky?

If haggis and poetry don’t sound fun to you, keep in mind that guests typically imbibe copious amounts of Scotch during the event.

Tell me more about the Scotch!

So, the classic pairing for haggis would be a peaty Scotch. Although, the flavor is prevalent in numerous Scotches, the undisputed peak of peat is Islay, a small, rocky island southwest of Loch Lomond. Ardberg 10 is our favorite basic bottle from the area. Laphroaig 10 and Bowmore 12 are two other popular, entry level options. All three are at the $50-ish price point.

Bruichladdich’s Octomore line holds several records for peat levels (yes, they track that). Those niche bottles will cost you about $200. Compass Box’s Peat Monster is an Islay blend that delivers on the name and retails for about $55 a bottle.

However, if you’re reading this article, odds are that you did not make haggis plans already. So, don’t worry too much about the peat. Pour yourself something good and read some Burns with friends.

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