Today is Burns Night, the annual celebration of Scotland’s national poet, and semi-official “St Patrick’s Day” for lovers of Scotch. Plan B restrictions may have derailed large-scale Burns Suppers and ceilidhs, but there’s no reason you can’t stay home, put on a Gay Gordons LP, whip up some haggis, neeps, and tatties, and toast the immortal memory of Robert Burns with a bottle of Deanston 18 Year Old – the Whisky Exchange’s 2022 Whisky of the Year.
Back in late November, when the Omicron variant was still a nebulous problem brewing in South Africa, the Whisky Exchange held a blind tasting to choose their 8th annual Whisky of the Year. A jury of dozens of whisky-loving members of the public convened at Browns in Covent Garden, sitting at round tables to taste six numbered glasses containing samples of the short-listed whiskies.
The Whisky Exchange’s head buyer, Dawn Davies, acted as MC and facilitator, explaining the eligibility criteria that each of the contenders had to satisfy; they were all ongoing, commercially available releases, and all of them retailed for under £75 a bottle.
Jurors were encouraged to critique each whisky for nose, palate, and finish, with the discussion becoming louder and more lively as the evening progressed. Different regions and styles were represented, providing real contrasts of scents and flavours. Once all of the whiskies had been sampled, each juror filled in a ballot with two numbers, identifying their first and second preferences. The results were tabulated, and the winner and a runner-up were revealed.
The all-conquering Deanston 18 Year Old was the clear favourite; a Highland single malt, matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, just a stone’s-throw from Doune Castle, which was a major filming location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Its almost waxy melange of vanilla and honey-sweet bananas will – like the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch – blow you away.
The runner-up was the Glen Moray 18 Year Old, which despite similarities in age and maturation has a markedly different flavour; less tropical, more orchard fruits, with a generous sprinkling of winter spices.
• Get yourself a bottle along with an £11 discount from the Whisky Exchange at thewhiskyexchange.com
Sick Burns: Tos spots for a Scottish Supper
Bentley’s Burns Bash
Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill will be hosting a special Burns Night menu on Tuesday 25 January. Guests can expect four courses of pure Sottish fare, with dishes including Orkney scallops, black pudding and celeriac, loin of venison, clapshot, haggis and spring greens. Dessert is a classic Scottish pud of Flummery, a set jelly infused with whiskey. The full menu is priced at £105 per person.
the Macallan Manor
The Macallan Manor House, the courtyard terrace at Rosewood London, is hosting a five course menu with The Macallan whisky pairings. For one night only, guests can try dishes prepared by executive chef Calum Franklin including white pudding scotch eggs, haggis neeps and tatties, and Scottish smoked salmon. Drinks will include a hot toddy to start and bespoke Macallan whisky pairings throughout. Prices from £125 per person.
Organic ode to a haggis
Islington’s The Duke of Cambridge, Britain’s first organic pub-restaurant certified by the Soil Association, is hosting a Burns Night supper on 25 January featuring Cullen Skink, Haggis, Neeps and Tatties and Clootie dumpling. Supplier Alan Henderson (of Hendersons Seafood) will don his full Highland dress, pipe the haggis and deliver the address at 8.30pm. From £40 per person.
Batman vs Burns
Batman-themed restaurant Park Row will celebrate Burns Night by drawing on Bruce Wayne’s Scottish heritage, with the evening taking the form of a night at the Wayne’s ancestral highland home. The experience will kick off with a bespoke menu of Glenfiddich cocktails and diners can expect all the traditional trappings, including the piping of the haggis, a ceilidh band and dancing. All of this and the special set menu will cost £55pp, including a welcome cocktail, canapés, and optional paired whiskies.
No. 50 Cheyne one-off meal
No. Fifty Cheyne will open on a Tuesday for one night only, with executive chef Iain Smith (Social Eating House) curating a five course tasting menu highlighting the best of British produce. He will create a series of outstanding Scottish dishes in partnership with Albelfdy Whisky, one of Scotland’s finest distilleries. The set menu will feature roasted Scottish langoustines, loin of venison carpaccio, and the essential Haggis with neeps and tatties as well as rolled saddle of lamb and shortbread-infused cranachan. The set meal will include a noggin of Aberfeldy 12 whisky, and Gordon Douglas Raeburn will provide entertainment on the bagpipes.
The Sun rises over Scotland
The Sun Tavern, will raise a glass to Scotland alongside a special menu served all night long and featuring such evocatively-named cocktails as the Tam O’Shanter, Bobby Burns, and Beer & A Bump. These will be accompanied by free haggis bites from the legendary Deeney’s and Kevin Ritchie, who will play classic Scottish hits following the ‘Address to the Haggis’.
Skylight’s Scottish Shindig
On the 29 January, head up to the rooftop of Tobacco Dock for Skylight’s special Burns Night Bash in partnership with Monkey Shoulder. The Burns Night party will feature special guest DJs and party favours throughout the evening. Monkey Shoulder will provide a free cocktail on arrival and whiskey tasting sessions to complement the Scottish Dancing. Tickets start from £8.
Gladwin Bros’ haggis
The Gladwin Brothers will celebrate by offering caramelised and braised haggis served with a neeps & tatties rosti and seasonal greens across their five sites.