Robert Burns Night: A mid-winter literary experience (with Balblair Whisky)



Some hae meat and canna eat;
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thanket.

That's the traditional Selkirk Grace that opens a Robert Burns Night celebration. The Scottish man of words died in 1796, and his his life and poetry still inspire and are celebrated on his birthday. On January 25, Burns Night suppers take place throughout the world, with recitations of his poetry, traditional Scottish fare, and toastsmany, many toasts made with wine, beer and most importantly Scotch.


This year, there will have to be virtual Burns Nights, but I'm going to modified version at home, alone. I'll start the evening with the traditional Grace, and I'll have some soup. According to this Burns Supper Itinerary, soup is often the first course. (Haggis is the main course, and I'm fine with skipping that.) Then I'll break open a book of his poetry, pour some Scotch, and both read and listen to recorded recitations of his poetry. That's it. A simple and entertaining mid-winter literary experience.


I'll be drinking Balblair Single Malt Whisky, finishing off the samples of their 12, 15 and 18 year whiskies. I've already tasted through these whiskies from their new collection that—according to the media materials sent—moves away from "vintage-only" offerings but remains true to the renowned character of the whiskies that the Scottish Highlands distillery has produced since 1790.


Keeping in mind that my whisky palate is that of a casual drinker, here are my tasting notes.


  • 12-year-old: Matured in American oak ex-bourbon barrels and double-fired American oak caskets. This whisky is described as "the defining expression of Balblair Distillery." Aromas of spice, almonds, caramel and chocolate; orange, honey, ginger and lemon on the palate. Would not describe this is smooth. 46% ABV. ($69.99 SRP)

  • 15-year-old: Matured initially in American oak ex-bourbon casks, followed by first-fill Spanish oak butts. The color difference between the 12-year and the 15-year is considerable, but the difference in oak aging most certainly play a part in that. More developed and harmonious than the 12-year. Many of the same aromas of the 12-year, but they're richer, deeper (yet fresh), and the nuttiness is more pronounced. Flavors of caramel apple, toasted nuts and ginger. 46% ABV. ($119.99 SRP)

  • 18-year-old: Matured initially in American oak ex-bourbon casks, followed by first-fill Spanish oak butts. Similiar in color to the 15-year, but a little lighter. Aromas of vanilla, caramel, raisins. More spice on the palate than the others, and the additional time in the Spanish oak gives it a some slight Sherry. Warm, spice cake finish. 46% ABV ($209.99 SRP)

Of the three, I preferred the 15-year, and I'll be sipping on that on Robert Burns Night 2021. If I find myself immersed in Robbie's (as the Scots call him) works, and I need a little more, the 18-year will due just fine, too.


Coincidentally, after I tasted through my samples, I happened to be thumbing through Whisky Advocate, and Balblair's 15-year was named one of the top 20 whiskies of 2020.



Curious about the samples I tell you about here on Wine & Wonder? You can view my sample policy to find out what I choose to write about, and what I don't.

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