Toast the life & works of Robbie Burns with these scotches
“The annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796)…[is] celebrated on, or about, the Bard’s birthday, January 25th…[They] range from stentoriously formal gatherings of esthetes and scholars to uproariously informal rave-ups of drunkards and louts.” ~ from Robert Burns Country
Whether you’re an esthete, scholar, drunkard or lout (I tend to fall into all categories, depending on the occasion), toasting the life and works of Scotland’s favourite artist is a great way for Canadians to ignore the fact that January is a dark, cold, mostly miserable time of year. You may not be into haggis or poetry (or poems about haggis), but if you’re reading this you’re likely kind of keen on scotch.
I reviewed a few excellent examples for the February/March issue of Quench, others came my way after that story went to press. Thankfully Robbie Burns Day gives me an excuse (as if needed) to report on more.
While single malts tend to get all the attention, the international success of the scotch whisky industry rests firmly on the shoulders of the blends. A well done blend can, in some cases, be more enjoyable and complex than some single malts.
Dewar’s “The Ancestor” 12 Year Old
Nice complexity here, with buckwheat honey, toasted grain, lavender, a hint of anise and a touch of marshmallow aroma-wise. Some spice, malt, honey, and mild smokiness on the palate. Dewar’s has a history of award-winning blends. Here’s another.
If you are in any way tuned in to the world of single malts, you are no doubt tuned into The Glenlivet. The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve is the Chablis of single malts. Lots of citrus (orange/lemon) zest on the nose with some pine/eucalyptus notes and a whiff of caramel and allspice. Creamy and zesty, with crisp, fresh apple/floral flavours, and a long, toasty/buttery finish.
Still retaining some bright, fruity notes, The Glenlivet 15 Year Old “The French Oak Reserve” offers a richer, nuttier profile with a creamy, toasty, vanilla-tinged palate; the result, no doubt, of the final aging in new French Limousin oak casks (traditionally used to age Cognac).
Aberlour 12 Years Old “Double Cask Matured”
If you’re looking for something really luxurious, decadent and sensual, the Aberlour Distillery is happy to oblige. The Aberlour 12 Years Old “Double Cask Matured” is, as the name suggests, aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Lots of ginger, walnut, clove, and candied orange peel in the aroma. Warm, creamy, silky-smooth flavours of toasted walnut, sultana, and dark fruit give way to a long, nutty finish.
Glenmorangie The Original
Finally, a pair of “bookends.” As much as the scotch whisky industry wants to push forward with new expression, let’s not forget the “old guard” that represent the classic single malt styles. The Glenmorangie (rhymes with “orangey”) Ten Years Old (aka The Original) boasts enough complexity to keep the enthusiast engaged with intriguing aromas of citrus, toasted barley, mineral, and a slight nuttiness but is gentle enough on the palate to appeal to those new to the game. It my be gentle, but this isn’t to say it lacks complexity with it’s mildly oak and toasted nut flavours combining with traces of cocoa and citrus zest.
Ardbeg 10 Years Old Islay Scotch Whisky
Interestingly, it was Glenmorangie that un-mothballed the legendary Ardbeg distillery on the isle of Islay. The Ardbeg 10 Years Old is textbook Islay (and not for the faint of heart). Sea spray, mild iodine, peat smoke, and lemon rind on the nose. Powerful and assertive in the mouth, it nevertheless retains elegance and balance, with the aggressive peat/brine components tempered by some zesty, fruit and sweet malted grain flavours.