Whispers of Whisk(e)y #35 – Maple Whisky Liqueur

Today’s whiskey liqueur is made by the Tunbridge Wells Liqueur Co., a sub-brand of Master of Malt, who, in addition to having an award-winning online retail site (where you can buy wonderful 30ml samples of whiskies), have an impressive array of their own products, ranging from handmade cocktails to Bathtub Gin.


The liqueur (bottled at 29.9% ABV) combines Kentucky Bourbon and fine Canadian maple syrup, with the aim of producing a tasty liqueur encompassing the benefits of each. Here are my thoughts.

WOW35 - MapleWhisky Liqueur

On its own

Nose: Initially, familiar notes of bourbon are aplenty, only sweeter and richer. Then, all of a sudden, unexpected notes of spice kick in, accompanied by cloves and black liquorice. After a little warming, rich, thick maple syrup notes are evident, with hints of cherry, but at no point do they take over – the bourbon and spice are always there, making for an interesting and three-dimensional nose.

Taste: A smooth sweetness to start, along with more complex notes of liquorice, treacle, and lightly spiced oak. The viscosity and distinct flavour of syrup then come into play, but those woody notes of liquorice continue to neatly balance this out, stopping it from becoming overly-sugary.

Finish: Vanilla and maple syrup with the dryness of liquorice root. At the very end, a faint hint of tart fruit, like cherries or blackcurrants.


Over ice

Nose: Much sweeter and lighter, with more maple and a faint, herbal edge.

Taste: Again, this is more smooth and less viscous, making it much more refreshing and a perfect serve for summer. Lighter on the palate, it seems more dessert-like, reminding me of pancakes with maple syrup and slightly melted vanilla ice-cream. After a few sips, the richer, spiced notes build up so that you get some of the more dry, complex flavours of liquorice and dark chocolate.

From the freezer

Served at an impressive -1 degrees Celsius, this is more viscous, complex and bold, with a good deal more of the maple coming through. There are also strong notes of treacle, liquorice and just a hint of cloves. More than in any of the other serves, there’s also a notable warmth to the finish, which is of cinnamon, oak and treacle. Delicious!

In a toddy

(50ml Maple Whiskey Liqueur, 25ml lemon juice, 75ml hot water)

A lemon freshness to start, which gradually develops into a creamy vanilla note that continues throughout. There’s a short burst of maple sweetness, before dryer, lightly spiced oak. Finally, the fresh notes of lemon returns. The finish is of lemon sherbets, cinnamon, the flavour – but not the sweetness – of maple syrup, and creamy vanilla. This blurs into a final, lingering note of  lemon, making it somewhat reminiscent of a smooth lemon cheesecake.

In Conclusion

This is delicious: a superb pairing of smooth, but intense notes of maple syrup and classic bourbon flavours. It’s not too sweet and is just complex enough to be interesting, without being fussy. Not only that, but I could drink it at any time of year in any one of the serves that I tried today; my favourite was straight from the freezer. Very good, indeed.


– Mrs. B.


You can buy Maple Whiskey Liqueur from Master of Malt at £27.95 for 50cl.


New Whisky from Paul John – Brilliance and Edited

Back in October of last year, I was honoured to attend a launch party for Paul John Single Cask Whisky from India. With positive reviews abound, the company set about continuing their plans to introduce the international markets to new whisky; the evidence being in the newest additions to their range: two single malts, entitled Brilliance and Edited. These two whiskies are set to be permanent bottlings for the Paul John Distillery.

Both are distilled in Goa using copper-pot stills, are aged in ex-Bourbon barrels, and are bottled at 46% ABV. The primary difference between the two is that Brilliance is made from unpeated malted barley, whereas Edited is made from a combination of unpeated and peated malted barley. All of the barley is also from India and this, combined with the extreme climate (temperatures can reach over 40°C), makes these whiskies distinctive in more ways than one. Here’s what I thought.

Brilliance  WHITE C

Paul John Brilliance (46% ABV)

Nose: Soft and sweet, but there’s also something unusually refreshing and “bright” about this, reminding me strongly of a Mint Julep made with fresh mint and a really good Bourbon. There’s smooth vanilla and light wood, plus a hint of cocoa paste, a little coconut, papaya and pineapple, like you’d find in muesli (these notes are similar to some of those in the Single Cask).

Taste: Quite powerful from the outset, with the same tropical flavours (dried pineapple, in particular) that I found on the nose coming through both on the palate and in the finish. In the middle, there are also some slightly bitter (but not in a bad way), raw wood notes that are accompanied by a strong warmth.

Finish: Light tannins, a little bit of dried banana chips and vanilla.


Paul John Edited (46% ABV)

Nose: Very light smoke and faint hints of peat, along with wood varnish and liquorice allsorts. Despite the lightness of the smoke, this is a good, strong nose. After a little warming, I also got some notes of sweet spice and sherry.

Taste: In contrast to Brilliance, this had more of a gradual, building warmth and spicy texture. It also seems sweeter and has more weight to it, with darker wood notes, liquorice and cinnamon.

Finish: Roasted banana and cream, a tiny touch of sweet spice, including a hint of nutmeg, and vanilla.

In Conclusion

Both of these whiskies have unique, but different profiles. I loved being able to taste them without any expectations, because they seem both familiar – they have many of the quality wood notes that you’d recognise from Scotch whisky – and yet, at the same time, refreshingly different. I’m a big fan, in particular, of the bright, tropical notes of Brilliance, which are perfectly balanced by the warmth behind them. Then again, the light peat and liquorice notes within Edited also drew me in. The lovely finishes of both makes it exceptionally difficult for me to choose a favourite between the two, although I think Brilliance has it, very slightly. Unless you only like heavy, smoky whiskies, I’d definitely recommend trying these if you get the chance.

– Mrs. B.

Cocktails with… Courvoisier VSOP

Back in August of last year, I experienced my first Cognac tasting. Today, I want to take a look at Courvoisier VSOP. This is the next step up from their VS, which I tried last time, and is a blend of Cognacs between four and ten years old. In addition, the term “Fine Champagne” on the bottle indicates that at least half of the crus used to make it are from the Grande Champagne region specifically.

The label is decked out in a rather fine, decadent blue, and may be familiar to some as the bottle proudly presented on the desk of Ralph Fiennes’ character, Mallory, in the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. He and M discuss weighty matters over a glass; and, given how much I enjoyed M’s whisky choices from that film, I’m looking forward to trying this.

Courvoisier VSOP Cognac

On its own
Nose: Vibrant, sharp grape to start, like a very good, dry sherry, but, after a while, this softens. Additional notes of caramelised apple, like a sticky, freshly-made toffee apple, then come into play.
Taste: Smooth, but full of flavour, with dry grape at the start quickly opening up with lots of lighter floral notes, reminding me of summer days in the garden; hints of rose, with a slight leafiness and the subtle sweetness of apricot jam. A light finish of white wine, dried apricots and vanilla. A light, pleasant warmth on the finish.

Rich and complex start, with lots of apricot and white grape, but mixed in with a richness that you’d get from red grape,  raspberries and blackberries. A more complex, warming finish, with vanilla, oak and a fresh note of sherbety lemon that lifts the drink.

Lovely, inescapable sweet anise notes on the nose. Pleasantly not too sweet to taste, though, with a far more subtle note of soft liquorice to start, followed by a measured, but surprisingly flavourful interplay between the notes of the anise and rich, sweet fruit. Quite short overall, but an intense drink; perfect for mid-evening.

In Conclusion
Without a doubt, Courvoisier VSOP is currently my favourite Cognac. I love the combination of the subtlety of the start and the rich, but measured fruit notes afterwards (especially the apricot on the finish – lovely!). I  was also impressed at how it worked in cocktails, in particular the Sazerac. I think my favourite way to drink it is on it’s own, though; this may just be the Cognac that persuades me to drink it on a regular basis!
– Mrs. B.

Caskstrength and Carry On (Cutty Sark)- A Review

Earlier on in the month, DTS & I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. This is, traditionally, the year for gifts along the theme of wood. We knew that finding one another gifts wouldn’t be a problem; as a matter of fact, my sole concern was that we would accidentally buy one another the exact same present, but, fortunately for me, DTS took the theme a little less literally than I did, focusing on gifts that had been aged in wood.


Ah, he knows me so well. A bottle of whisky and a book about whisky. Excellent! Both are additionally a bit special in that they’re collaborative works by our good friend, Neil Ridley.

The book, written by Neil and Gavin D. Smith, is a superb introduction to all forms of whisky and I highly recommend it if you’ve not got a copy already. There are some nifty diagrams of distilleries and an excellent telling of the story of the spirit. I loved the tone and message of the book, which encourages others to try, explore and share whisky; exactly what it’s there for!

But onto the whisky part of my present: a special edition of Cutty Sark Whisky produced by Neil and Joel of Caskstrength.com as a part of their enviable endeavour to produce an ‘A to Z’ of whisky bottlings (the ‘C’, obviously). Overseen by Cutty Sark Master Blender Kirsteen Campbell, they blended this whisky in time to release to coincide with the brand’s 90th anniversary and is, appropriately, 90 proof, or 51.4% ABV.


On its own
Nose: Lemon shortbread, fading towards a light, non-peaty smoke. An interesting combination of bright citrus notes and heavy butter to start, with hints of oat biscuits and that light smoke towards the end.
Taste: Incredibly buttery to start: rich and ever so slightly oily, with notes of dry oatcake, vanilla, and oak. The finish is clean and light, despite the alcoholic strength coming through with some some substantial warmth, and has a subtle, woody dryness to it. Hints of banoffee at the very end.

Rob Roy
The vanilla, lemon and richness of the whisky combine perfectly with the spice and fresh tartness of the vermouth to produce a smooth, tasty drink with all of these flavours and a pleasantly lingering finish of walnut, hazelnut and creamy milk chocolate. Delicious!

Old Fashioned
Warming and, again, slightly spicy, with a distinct note of banana and toffee on the nose. There’s vanilla and light wood to start, followed by rich citrus (think lemon curd, rather than juice), and a strong finish of salted toffee or caramel with an oily nuttiness and intriguing hint of spicy celery.

Whisky Ginger
A very smooth, almost creamy, start with more vanilla than ginger, followed by an intriguingly dry and creamy finish that is quite short, with hints of sharp, but creamy lemon (again, think lemon curd).

In Conclusion
All-in-all, this is an interesting, rich and flavourful whisky. Straight, it was a little too confectionery and heavy on the citrus for me, but it really comes into its own in cocktails. The Whisky Ginger was different in the strength of its creamy, vanilla notes and both the Rob Roy and the Old Fashioned were delightful, harmonious combinations of vanilla, spice and lemon. The clear favourite for me, though, was the Rob Roy.

– Mrs. B.

Caskstrength and Carry On (Cutty Sark) is available for around £35 for 70cl from Master of Malt

Cocktails with Johnnie Walker Spice Road – The Travel Retail Exclusive Blend


Following the introduction of the new Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve and Platinum whiskies, Johnnie Walker have a new collection of whiskies to unveil: The Explorer’s Club Collection. Inspired by the historic expeditions of the Walker family, the collection combines the exclusive and exotic nature of international travel in centuries past with characteristics of particular travels. The first series in the collection is ‘The Trade Route’, which consists of three whiskies: The Spice Road, The Gold Route and The Royal Route.

The first to be released, The Spice Road, was very kindly brought home from a trip to Kentucky by DTS (it’s currently a travel exclusive, only available in Duty Free shops). It’s inspired by the thriving markets of Asia and comes in a lovely, slightly understated box.

JW SpiceRoute Bottle

On its own
Nose: Warm and rich: the heavy, sweet fruit of fruit cake and brandy, before a gradual transformation to a lighter, savoury spice, more akin to mild chilli and black pepper, and the freshness of lime. A hint of charred-wood smokiness at the end.
Taste: At the beginning there’s a sweet woodiness that has a dough-like quality to it. This quickly develops into a smooth, but seemingly playful spiciness – a combination of chilli, pepper and ginger – that lasts on the finish, giving it a warm and interesting texture that’s long, but not at all heavy. The end of the finish is warm, dry and ever-so-slightly bitter, reminding me of bark.

Whisky Ginger
Intriguing – oddly sweet for a majority, before transforming to a savoury finish. There’s a subtle, creamy vanilla note throughout. Unlike some other Whisky Gingers, where the ginger ale and whisky flavours are quite separate – you get the sweet ginger and then the whisky quite distinctly at the end – the two integrate particularly well in this drink; maybe its the ginger in both? Regardless, it’s lovely.

Rob Roy
Savoury and sweet at the same time – the dryness of the whisky and the rich fruitiness of the vermouth seem to be expertly combined. Rich, red wine to start, followed by the distinctive, dry spiciness of the Spice Road. The vermouth highlights more wintery spices in the whisky, like cinnamon and cloves. This has an excellent, interesting flavour profile, whilst remaining smooth and refreshing.

In Conclusion
This whisky really does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s full of colourful, spicy flavours, combined with a brilliant smoothness and freshness. Although it doesn’t have the weight and comforting smokiness of the Black or Double Black Labels, it’s unique character, along with the concept behind the series, makes it definitely worth a try.

– Mrs. B.

Johnnie Walker Spice Route is available from World Duty Free for around £30 for a litre.



Cocktails with… Pinckney Bend’s White Corn Whisky – with a special rested bonus!!

Another one of the treats as a result of DBS’s recent trip to Kentucky was a bottle of Pinckney Bend Corn Whiskey. The Pinckney Bend Distillery, located in New Haven, about 60 miles due west of the Gateway to the West (St. Louis), produce a range of small batch, craft spirits. DBS reviews their gin last year here.

Pinckney Bend is the namesake of a bend in the Mississippi River that was a notorious navigational hazard to ships on the river; a settlement sprung up at that geographical point, but has since been abandoned. The finer details of the story can be found here.
The area has been associated with quality distilled spirits since 1806, when the explorers Lewis & Clark visited the area.
Seeing the range of spirits made at Pinckney Bend, I wanted to quickly look up the official differences between the various types. The following definitions (summarised by me) come from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Vodka” – alcohol that has been distilled (or distilled and then treated or filtered) “as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color”.

“Whisky” is an alcoholic distillate made from a fermented mash of grain produced under 190 proof and bottled at no less than 80 proof. It must taste, smell and generally have the characteristics “generally attributed to whisky”. Unless it’s corn whisky, it needs to be stored in oak containers.

“Bourbon whisky” can’t come off of the still at more than 160 proof and must be produced from a mash consisting of 51% or more corn grain. It must be stored in charred new oak containers and has to be 125 proof or under when doing so.

Like Bourbon, “corn whisky” can’t be more than 160 proof off of the still, but must be produced a mash of at least 80% corn grain. It doesn’t have to be stored in oak, but if it is, it must be under 125 proof when stored. Charred wood can’t be used to store or treat it.

So now that we know exactly where corn whiskey sits, let’s give Pinckney Bend’s version a try!


On its own
Nose: Light, but vibrant notes of corn (like unpopped popcorn) and vanilla.
Taste: This has an interesting texture: the flavour swings between plain, clean alcohol notes and sweeter ones of corn. The finish gradually builds and is comforting, long and warm. At the very end of the finish, there’s a refreshing, dry bitterness that reminds me of black coffee; there’s no sickly, cloying corn notes here!

Old Fashioned (using Bitter Truth’s Jerry Thomas Bitters)
Light and sweet, with a lovely and wholly unexpected note of banana, like that of warm banana bread or banoffee pie. The flavour is creamy, but with a herbal lift at the end. Like the whiskey on its own, there’s a long, slightly dry finish with hints of dark chocolate. The creamy corn/banoffee note appears faintly, but recurrently on the finish. Without a doubt, this is now one of my favourite cocktails.

White Manhattan
[50ml Pinckney Bend Corn Whisky, 10ml Dolin Dry Vermouth]
This has the freshness of a Vodka Martini, but with weightier notes of wood and vanilla, making it more akin to a Gin Martini, only without any other distracting botanical flavours. Refreshing, strong and to the point.

[50ml Pinckney Bend Corn Whisky, 25ml Red vermouth]
The vermouth definitely takes centre-stage in this cocktail: from the outset, there are bold, dry herbal notes, followed by a long, smooth finish of subtle corn, interspersed with spice and a tannin-like note that reminded me of black tea. This would be a great way to showcase a particularly nice dry vermouth.

with Ginger Ale
Very refreshing, with a neat crispness to it that reminds me of cucumber. Not too sweet. I think this would work particularly well with some fresh lemon, and would make a lovely afternoon drink to sit back and relax with.

plus… Pinckney Bend “Rested” Corn Whiskey

The Distillery have trialled resting their corn whiskey in barrels (for under one year) We’re lucky to have a small sample – here are my notes.

Nose: Light hints of musky books and sweet honey. Vanilla throughout, with notes of sweet, caramelised corn at the end.
Taste: Invigorating and very warm at the end. There are strong notes of wood (with lots of character and body to them, like a good quality Bourbon), followed by a warmer version of the corn note from before. There’s nothing sweet or sickly about the corn note; it’s a deeper corn flavour. The wood and corn notes are well-balanced and followed by a slight muskiness on the finish.

In Conclusion
Yet again, I find myself being very impressed with a corn whiskey; in particular how well it works in a wide range of cocktails. My favourite was undoubtedly the Old Fashioned. The “Rested” Corn Whiskey is also rather exciting – perfectly combining the subtle and sweet corn notes with more weightier wood notes – and something to keep an eye out for.

– Mrs. B.


WOW 35 – Jim Beam Hot Punch Whiskey

WOW34 Title


This week it’s been rather chilly in the UK, certainly for the end of February, and so it seems appropriate that, as the Siberian winds swirl, I let you know of another way to keep warm: the whiskey way; namely, Jim Beam Hot Punch. Anyone who’s popped down to see the guys at The Whisky Exchange at London Bridge will probably have noticed their display of white-labelled bottles from a famous Lynchburg distillery (Jack Daniels Winter Punch), so it’s little surprise that this equally unusual bottle came from the same source.

We reviewed Jack Daniels Winter Punch here and it has been a firm favourite with various friends and family ever since. Jim Beam Hot Punch appears to be in a similar vein; both are bottled at 15%ABV and both appear to be made for the German market.

Here is the sidebar from Jim Beam Hot Punch:

JimBeamHotPunch Sidebar

The Taste

Nose: Whoa! I was not expecting that. Sugary notes of peach, pineapple and strawberry, all combined with a bubblegum-esque flavour and creamy, vanilla undertones. Without a doubt, this reminds me strongly of gummy/foam ice-cream cone sweets.
Taste: Smooth and very easy to sip. There’s a burst of sweet fruitiness to start that then dries out, but the vanilla and gummy/gelatine flavour remains. A tiny hint of warmth appears at the back of the throat, but nothing major (it’s only 15%ABV after all). The main flavours are, like on the nose, pineapple, peach, apricot, strawberry and apple. Despite this, it’s not overly sugary, but it definitely has a confectionery flavour to it that I didn’t expect.

JimBeamHotPunch HOT

Nose: The same gummy-ice-cream-sweet flavour, with notes of vanilla and fruit, only slightly more sickly than when served cold (mainly via the vapours).
Taste: More potent than the cold version. The sweet flavours transform into a fruity, tart flavour that’s almost sour, like gooseberries, or cooked fruit – pears or apples – with vanilla and a tiny hint of cinnamon. This serve is obviously much more warming, too.

In Conclusion
All-in-all, I thought this was a little odd. The broad sweep of sweet, fruit flavours reminded me more of summer than winter (in contrast to the packaging and concept) and, unlike the Winter Jack, it doesn’t have any seasonal, spicy notes. Additionally, unlike the Jim Beam Red Stag flavoured Bourbons, I couldn’t really get any whiskey notes after all of the fruitiness. Despite this, I’m sure many people will enjoy it; just not if they’re after a whiskey!

– Mrs. B.

Jim Beam Hot Punch is available in the UK but The Whisky exchange seems to be the only place that stock it. It is available online at £15 for 70cl.

For other sweet Jim Beam treats, why not check out our reviews of Jim Beam Honey or Cherry Red Stag and, if you happen to be in the US, the Red Stag Spice or Red Stag Honey Tea may be of interest.

WOW33 – Bushmills Irish Honey – A Review


The trend for whisk(e)y liqueurs and flavoured whisk(e)y shows no sign of abetting, but whereas it’s typically the whiskey producers of the US who are innovating in this field, today’s focus is on one from Ireland: Bushmills Irish Honey.

It is worth noting that this is described as a “Spirit Drink“ and not a whiskey liqueur; this is because it has less sugar in it than a liqueur. It’s a blend of Bushmills whiskey, Irish honey and other natural flavours, and is bottled at 35%ABV.


On its own
Nose: Rather bourbon-esque and not too heavy or overly honeyed. Light wood and grain notes are balanced by a comforting, but subtle level of sweetness. I get hints of malt, too.
Taste: Very smooth, but by no means sweet, this is inoffensive and easy to drink. The flavours are straightforward: sweet grain and malt, with odd hints of floral honey scattered throughout. The finish is lightly dry, with subtle notes of grain.

Irish Coffee
[One Shot of Hot Espresso, 25ml Bushmills Honey, Layer Cream on Top]
A malty nose with hints of honey backs up a decidedly non-sweet Irish Coffee. What’s great about this as an Irish Coffee is that you could easily tweak the sweetness level to your own personal preference, rather than be stuck with a sickly drink. The woody notes and warmth from the spirit come through initially, followed by the coffee and then a dry, creamy finish (I’d also like to try this with a spoonful of brown sugar).

In Conclusion
This is a smooth and accessible drink, especially when sipped neat, but neither the honey, nor the whiskey notes are particularly strong. If you’re after something less subtle, you might be better with one of the honey flavoured bourbons (e.g. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jim Beam Honey, or Evan Williams Honey Reserve Liqueur). However, if you find the whiskey liqueurs too sweet, or just want to experiment with cocktails using a honeyed whiskey where you can better control the sweetness, Bushmills Irish Honey could be worth a try.

– Mrs. B.

The Bowmore Scotch Valentine Competition – Ends Monday 11th!

Please note the change in timings! The competition closes at 11am on Monday 11th February and the Twitter tasting date is on Wednesday 13th February.


Readers of my posts on whisky will know that one of the distilleries that I’m particularly fond of is Bowmore. Most of the expressions remind me somewhat of the sea, given where it’s made and the fact that I’ve taken it along to most of my seaside whisky tastings, so it’s a thoroughly relaxing, contemplative drink that’s close to my heart.

How appropriate, then, that for Valentine’s this year, Bowmore are running a competition during which they are revealing a new expression of their whisky. Two lucky winners will receive invitations to a special Valentine’s “Twitter tasting date” with Master Blender, Rachel Barrie, and thirteen other panelists from the whisky world.

Winners will receive a whisky bouquet (what an excellent idea!) containing three of the classic Bowmore whiskies, plus the exclusive new expression (a work-in-progress, no less), which Rachel will go through via Twitter, using the hashtag #loveBowmore.

The tasting takes place on Wednesday 13th February at 19:00 and you’ve only got until Monday (11th February) at 11am to enter the competition. To do so, enter at the Bowmore Facebook page.

Bowmore Enigma

Bowmore Enigma

One of the Bowmore whiskies that I haven’t written about yet is Enigma, a 12 year old that we picked up in duty free on a trip to France. Designed to reflect the duality of land and sea at the distillery on Islay, Enigma is a lovely, dark gold colour.

Nose: Warm and savoury to start, developing into slightly sweeter notes of sherry and brandy. Rounding off with straw and oatcakes, and a lovely, honeyed peatiness. A lovely, interesting and yet still wonderfully balanced nose.
Taste: A burst of sweet peat, which quickly gives way to a more smoky peatiness. This is followed by lots of neat notes of sherry-soaked wood that develop and change with each sip. The finish is deliciously warm and slightly fruity – that sherry once again making itself known – before a final note that has perplexed me for a little while; I’ve finally concluded that it’s a note of chewy, salted caramel oat cakes.

In Conclusion

Needless to say, Bowmore remains one of my favourite distilleries. I’ll certainly be having a glass of Enigma on Valentine’s Day; with it’s combination of peaty and sherry notes, I think that it’s perfect to share and explore with good friends (or after a romantic dinner!). If you fancy something richer and sweeter, Bowmore Darkest works particularly well alongside chocolate.

– Mrs. B.

Mrs. B’s – Burn’s Night Special!

Today, 25th January, is Robert Burns Day or Burns Night, a day to celebrate the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns Night celebrations can be exceptionally formal affairs, but ever since our honeymoon in Edinburgh, DTS & I have held a somewhat more informal dinner on Burns Night. It involves haggis, neeps and tatties, and – without a doubt – some whisky. Rather than go in-depth into the history or ceremony behind Burns Night, I instead wanted to do a quick investigation of how a range of different whiskies (selected by the fact that they were readily available in our drinks cabinet) accompanied such a meal.

Given the number that I was trying, and the speed at which my dinner was cooling down, my notes aren’t particularly extensive, but I was able to get a good idea of which fitted this particular bill best.

Burns Night Whisky

The pepperiness and chilli kick of this whisky work incredibly well alongside the spices in haggis. The peatiness adds a little something special – another dimension to the flavours of the plate.

Grant’s Ale Cask
A general excellent all-rounder alongside the meal; the flavour is good and woody, without being harsh or contrasting with the haggis. The spice of the meal somewhat masked most hints of the ale cask, but this still tasted pretty good.

Johnnie Walker Black Label
Beautiful and full of flavour with excellent peaty notes and deliciously smooth. However, this also had more hints of sweetness that I think would go better as an after-dinner tipple than one to accompany the meal itself.

Whyte & Mackay The Partnership Blend (for Waitrose)
Sadly, I don’t think whisky is available any longer, although we found it to be a good standard Scotch – excellent value for money. When drunk alongside our Burns Night dinner, this was improved considerably by a drop or two of water, which opened it up, bringing out more subtle notes of wood and spice, allowing it to better complement the haggis.

Black & White
This had a stronger and more direct flavour than the others, which, even with water, seemed to distract a little from the meal. From personal experience, I know that this whisky works particularly well in a Whisky Ginger, so – next time – I think that would be the better way to enjoy B&W on Burns Night.

In Conclusion
My favourite whisky of those that I tried with my haggis, neeps & tatties was undoubtedly the Talisker, which had the perfect combination of power of flavour, spice and savouriness to best complement the meal.

A couple of postscripts…

(i) Dessert

After dinner, DTS made me the following cocktail – a take on a Rusty Nail – was recommended to us by Jamie Stephenson, Drambuie Global Brand Ambassador.

Burns DrambuieCocktail

Rusty Robbie Burns
15ml Drambuie
30ml Blended Scotch (e.g. Johnnie Walker Red)
15ml Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Method: Stir well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish: Shortbread

Nose: Bright and refreshing, with strong notes of orange fondant.
Taste: Lighter and more refreshing than Drambuie on its own in a Rusty Nail; this is drier, thinner, but still with a distinctive flavour. A delicious drink, especially if you generally find Drambuie a bit sweet on its own. If you fancy a little extra sweetness, a piece of shortbread goes particularly well with this.

(ii) For those who prefer more gin in their cocktails (a postscript by DTS)

For those who fancy some gin to celebrate Burns Night with, I can recommend the Argyll Station Chief, which is a variation on the Berlin Station Chief*.

Argyll Station Chief
60ml Old Raj Blue**
15ml Lagavulin 16 Year Old Scotch
Pour Scotch into an ice-filled cocktail shaker.
After coating the ice with the whisky, strain the remainder into a small glass (to drink later, or give to your wife).
Add the gin, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Strong gin flavours upfront: juniper, citrus and some herbal-floral notes, all followed by the dry, long, smoky finish of the whisky. This is strong (the gin is 50%ABV), but a good drink to have before you sit down to your Burns Night supper.