Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Esteemed whisky writer, Gavin A Smith gives us his recommendations for Hogmanay and Burns' Night
Winter brings with it two of Scotland’s greatest traditional celebrations, namely Hogmanay and Burns Night (25th January), and neither would be complete without a dram or two of fine Scotch whisky.
Happily, for those looking to raise a glass, there is more choice than ever before within the realms of Scotch, from long-aged, sherry casks-matured and peaty full-bodied drams to young, fruity, light expressions, ideal perhaps for mixing. At the close of 2020 there were no fewer than 134 Scottish whisky distilleries in production and, of those, more than 30 have opened in the last decade alone.
Whether relaxing at home, celebrating in a bar, at a Hogmanay party or at a Burns Supper, whisky is a wonderful social lubricant, bonding friends and strangers alike, and all the while paying homage to one of Scotland’s greatest commercial successes.
Facts and figures
According to the Scotch Whisky Association, 36 x 70cl bottles of Scotch whisky are shipped from Scotland to 166 markets around the world each second, totalling over 1.14bn every year, and in 2019, Scotch accounted for 75% of Scottish food and drink exports, and 21% of all UK food and drink exports. More than 10,000 people are directly employed in the Scotch whisky industry across Scotland.
Choose your drams
Clearly, it would be unpatriotic not to support our wonderful industry, and this is the perfect time of year to indulge yourself and your friends in some fine whisky without breaking the bank. So why not explore beyond your usual choices using the suggestions below?
In terms of whisky styles, winter occasions such as Hogmanay and Burns Night may call for some fuller-bodied single malts, perhaps with the influence of sherry cask maturation and/or an element of peatiness.
For lovers of sherried drams, why not give some of the biggest names a swerve, and opt for the lower profile but excellent Tamdhu? The 12-year-old 43%abv expression retails for around £45, but if you want a really bold and intense sherried whisky experience, opt for the Batch Strength variant, currently in its 6th iteration and bottled at a hefty 56.8%abv (£80).
Sherry-rich alternatives include fellow Speysider the 15-year-old Glendronach Revival, bottled at 46%abv (£62) and matured in a mix of Pedro Ziminez and oloroso sherry casks for a rich, complex, flavoursome dram.
Far away from Speyside, in the Kintyre capital of Campbeltown, is Glen Scotia distillery, which offers the 46%abv sherry-finished Double Cask (£40). After initial bourbon cask maturation, the whisky is transferred to Spanish Pedro Ximinez casks, giving a sweet and spicy kick to accompany its slightly oily, coastal character.
Sweet and peat
For those wishing to combine sherry and peat influences in their dram, there is the ever-excellent 16-year-old 43%abv Lagavulin (£65) from Islay, while an attractive lower-profile Islay single malt to combine sweetness and smoke is the 46%abv Kilchoman Sanaig (£52), aged in a mix of oloroso sherry and bourbon casks.
A sense of smoke