Burns’ Night will soon be here, traditionally celebrated with haggis supper and plenty of whisky. But what if you fancy a Scottish gin instead?
Heresy! Surely? Well maybe not. Although Scotch is the national drink of Scotland and Burns is the national poet he was always known for his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and didn’t limit himself to whisky. Burns was known to enjoy an ale, a cider, some rum or brandy and yes, a gin, as much as a fine scotch.
And as much as it’s considered an English drink, gin is actually pretty Scottish. As we explained in our Scottish gins article, 70% of all the world’s gin comes from Scotland and there’s a fine craft gin scene there with favourites like Edinburgh Gin, Pickering’s and Caorunn.
So we thought we’d pair up some gins with the traditional elements of a Burn’s Supper.
The first Burns supper was held by Robert Burn’s friends 5 years after his death in 1796, in order to remember and celebrate him. Burns had been a titanic literary figure in Scotland with a mix of over 550 songs and poems plus countless other letters and pamphlets that argued strongly for his socialist ideals and for Scottish nationalism. He was an influential figure in the romantic movement too and continues to inspire musicians and artists to this day (Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan both name Burns as one of their influences).
His most famous works include “To a Mous,”from which the famous line “the best laid plans of mice and men, gang aft aglay,” (often go wrong) comes and “Address to a Haggis,” the quintessentially Scottish food that forms the centrepiece of a Burns Supper.
A Burns supper traditionally starts with the mingling of guests whilst a piper plays. Since you’re about to eat a heavy meal we think that a Caorunn gin and tonic would be a perfect drink to start. Caorunn is light and aromatic with a distinctly floral aroma, a nice way to start an evening.
The first course should always be a Scottish soup such as Cock-A-Leekie. To complement the flavour of leeks we recommend a really aromatic gin such as Shetland Reel, which has zesty citrus flavour at the forefront but finishes up with an aromatic herbiness that supports the leek aromas.
The main event is the haggis itself announced by the “Address to a Haggis” and backed up by tatties (mashed potatoes) and neeps (mashed swede). Haggis is highly spiced and the offal used to make it is rich and very flavourful so you’ll need a very spicy gin with a big punch of juniper to stand up to all that flavour. Fortunately both Edinburgh based gins fit the bill. Edinburgh Gin has rich heathery notes on the palate that are highly evocative of Scotland and finishes with a gingery spiciness. Pickering’s is sweeter and softer but has a nutty richness and plenty of spicy cinnamon flavour.
Dessert is almost always made with whisky be it Cranachan (a mixture of oats, fruit, cream and whisky), whisky tart or another classic Scottish pudding. As such we had to make some concessions to the whisky drinkers in the form of a barrel aged gin. Allowed to rest in oak barrels these aged gins take on some of the woody flavours of a whisky along with a golden hue but lack the peaty burn and retain a spicy juniper kick. Strathearn Heather Rose is one of our favourite barrel aged gins and perfect for dessert as it’s quite sweet and bursting with floral rose and fragrant heather.
The supper finishes up with the traditional “Lassie’s toast” a thanks to the women that prepared the meal as well as a meditation on the hosts thoughts about women in general. Arbikie Kirsty’s seems suitable since it’s named for a woman and is distinctive, unusual, unique and well worth celebrating. Nowadays there might be a “reply to the laddies” where the host’s wife or partner usually gives him a right good verbal kicking. So he’ll naturally need to fortify himself with a powerful Navy strength gin such as Edinburgh Cannonball.
Burn’s himself prized innovation and a life lived to its fullest capacity. So don’t let tradition hold you back, try some gins this year and think of Scotland.
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