Robert Burns and Scotch Whisky have a long and somewhat twisted history. The Ayrshire born poet was known to love a dram or two (or three) but he also believed that whisky had a symbolic and fiscal significance for Scotland.
Realising that there wasn’t much money to be made in either farming or writing, Burns became an excise man in his later years. However, he quickly became disillusioned with the system which he was working for and was said to turn a blind eye to many of those who forgot to pay tax on their whisky. Written in 1785, his piece ‘Scotch Whisky’ emphasises not only his regard for the drink, but also the distain he had for the London-based taxation of Scotland’s national drink – an issue which remains contentious to this day.
To celebrate the link between the two, Arran Distillery – which is located just across the water from Burns’ birthplace in Ayrshire – has created a single malt in his memory. Robert Burns Single Malt has been created using 70% bourbon casks and 30% sherry casks, and is the only whisky to be fully endorsed by the World Robert Burns Federation.
Unlike many of Burns’ works, his whisky is much easier to get your tongue around, as it’s a very easy-drinking whisky. The nose is sweet and creamy, with notes of vanilla ice cream and honey nut corn flakes. These flavours continue onto the palate, which is smooth and subtle, with a kick of citrus and spice toward the end. The finish is clean, fresh and crisp, with a slight lingering aftertaste of milk chocolate.
Bottlings like this usually scream tourist exploitation but I was delighted at how enjoyable it was. And at such a good price, you’d best pick up a couple of bottles for your Burns Night celebrations.