If there were ever a good reason to end Dry January prematurely it’s Burns Night.
This year, 25 January falls on Thirsty Thursday, too, so it’s even more enticing. (Twenty-five days is more or less a whole month, right?)
So if you’re going to indulge, make sure you do it right with some proper Scottish whisky.
Here are our top picks for enjoying a well-earned dram or two. As the Scottish bard said: “Here's a bottle and an honest friend! What wad ye wish for mair, man?”
16 Year Old French Oak
The Balvenie’s range of single malt Scotch whiskies are hand-crafted in Speyside using centuries-old skills passed down through generations.
The distillery has become renowned as a master of maturation, known for its innovative techniques in this arena. The new limited-edition 16-year-old release is part of The Balvenie Cask Finish Collection – and is a spectacular showcase of the team's finely honed skills in cask management.
The whisky is matured for 16 years in American Oak before being finished in ex-Pineau French oak casks. Pineau des Charentes, a regional aperitif of western France, is a fortified wine made by combining Cognac eau de vie with fresh grape juice.
This cask finish adds an intriguing layer of complexity to the whisky – plenty of sweet fruits, alongside zesty and floral notes.
Bottled at 47.6% abv, there’s also an abundance of vanilla spic here with warm honey notes alongside grapefruit, geranium, glazed fruits and vibrant ginger.
15 Year Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange
If you're looking for a dram that's bold but elegant this Burns Night, this Strathisla is everything you need.
Bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange, it has a soft and fruity flavour profile that makes it the perfect partner for that old Scottish favourite smoked salmon, a classic starter for traditional Burns suppers and a great dish to pair with a whisky like this one.
Marrying notes of fruit and flowers with a rich, oily mouthfeel, it will complement and contrast with the cured fish's smoky flavour and richness.
As you may have guessed from its name, Smokehead is not some fusty old spirits company. And its whiskies are not the shy nor retiring type. We feel Mr Burns would approve.
The award-winning Smokehead Original malt offers all the heavy woodsmoke and peat you’d expect from an Islay whisky, with layers of honeyed sweetness complemented by salt, seaweed and spice.
And if you really want to mix things up, Smokehead has recently launched a new Tequila Terminado expression. Crafted by ageing Smokehead Islay single malt in ex-Bourbon barrels and finishing in Mexican Tequila oak casks, this whisky boldly embarks on an adventurous flavour journey.
Smoke mixes with chewy meringue; citrus spins with sweetness. As the brand accurately attests, “You ain’t tasted nothing like this before.”
18 Year Old
A distillery with a growing profile in the modern era, Loch Lomond in the southern Highlands combines traditional and contemporary distilling practices in single malts that are full of character.
This lightly smoky whisky, which is also full of rich dried fruit, fresh berries, spice and toffee notes, was pronounced The Whisky Exchange's Whisky of the Year for 2024.
It's easy to see why, especially when paired with traditional Burns Night desserts like cranachan, a quintessential Scottish dish of raspberries, whisky and honey.
10 Year Old
This ten-year-old single malt from Talisker is a much-loved introduction to the Skye distillery's signature style, full of bold but beautifully integrated peat and maritime character.
Cullen skink – a Scottish soup of rich smoked haddock and potatoes and a classic Burns supper dish – is a food pairing that calls for a hearty whisky.
Talisker, with its delicious notes of bonfire smoke, coastline salt and wild heather, is the ideal match, and one that will make any Burns Night live long in the memory.
12-Year-Old Double Cask
Last November, a bottle of Macallan sold for £2.1m at a Sotheby's auction breaking the world record for the most expensive whisky. The remarkably rare 1926 is not far from its 100th birthday, but for something rather more youthful – and a lot more affordable – try The Macallan’s 12-Year-Old Double Cask.
Expect to find classic Macallan notes of citrus and toffee apple, but layered with extra butterscotch and lashings of caramel.
The double casks in the name are American and European oak sherry seasoned casks – both delivering their own characteristics to this multifaceted malt.
Everyone loves a comeback, right? Especially when it’s in the form of a hugely flavoursome yet exceptionally refined whisky.
Welcome (back) to the GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival Single Malt Whisky. A much-loved dram, which had been discontinued by the distillery in 2015, has been brought back by popular demand.
Matured in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks from Andalucía, the nose delivers an intoxicating burst of maraschino cherry, ripe bramble and dark chocolate mint with hints of orange bitters and walnut liqueur.
And to taste, dig in to honey-glazed apricot and ripe fig, finishing up with a dollop of black cherry, angelica and muscovado. Who needs dessert, eh?
£78.50 for 70cl (46% ABV), thewhiskyexchange.com
Suze Morrison / Gourmetglow
The Aberlour distillery in Aberdeenshire, Scotland was founded by a local farmer, James Fleming in 1879.
Fast forward to a distillery refurbishment in 1973, where workers discovered a hidden time capsule – a bottle of 1898 Aberlour.
In the late 1990s, Aberlour decided it was time to pay homage to their origins and recreate the characteristics of that 1898. Thus A’Bunadh – meaning ‘The Original’ in Scottish Gaelic – was born.
Matured exclusively in Spanish ex-Oloroso sherry butts and bottled at cask strength, A'Bunadh has slight variances in ABV from batch to batch but rarely does it dip below 60%.
Known for its deep dark mahogany colour, notes of raisins, fruit, malt, vanilla, jam and heck, the latest Batch 69 has plenty of oak spice, black cherries, and dark chocolate for good measure.
Bladnoch is the southernmost distillery in Scotland and, fittingly, one of the closest to where Robert Burns spent the majority of his life in Dumfries & Galloway.
The Bladnoch Classic Collection is expertly handcrafted by the brand’s Master Distiller, Dr Nick Savage and his team, using water from the River Bladnoch which flows alongside the distillery. All four whiskies – Vinaya, Liora, Samsara and Alinta – are natural in colour and non-chill filtered, to ensure the truest flavours shine through.
To add some real heat to a cold January night, opt for Alinta. The name is borrowed from a southeast Australian indigenous word meaning ‘fire’ or ‘flames’, and evokes the notes of embers found in each sip.
A sweet, smoky, peated spirit, Bladnoch Alinta takes its flavour from maturation in Pedro Ximénez sherry and ex-bourbon casks, which also sets this whisky apart from anything previously released by Bladnoch.
200-Year Anniversary Limited Edition 12-Year-Old
Of course, you might decide that hosting is a responsibility too far. Instead, put your Burns night celebrations in the hands of The Ivy West Street.
On Friday 26 January, the iconic London institution is hosting a special evening to unveil the new The Glenlivet 200 Year Anniversary Limited Edition 12-Year-Old.
Guests are invited to indulge in an exclusive three-course dinner perfectly paired with The Glenlivet's distinguished whiskies with a rare opportunity to try the new The Glenlivet 200-Year Anniversary Limited Edition alongside the groundbreaking The Glenlivet Capsule Collection.
Tickets are priced at £99 per person, inclusive of canapés, a three-course meal and whisky cocktail pairings. Limited seats are available at: theivycollectionevents.giftpro.co.uk