Let’s talk about the drams of whisky worth raising in celebration of the Bard. Burns Night calls for Peated Malts and Smoky Scotch – whiskies that are as captivating and transportive as they are polarising and intensely complex.
What is Burns Night?
Taking place on January 25th, Burns Night is an annual celebration of the life and works of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. If you find yourself at a Burns Night dinner this January you can expect lots of food (including the traditional “Address to the Haggis”), poetry recitals, and our favourite part – whisky!
For some, what makes it special are the words recited and the traditions that transcends generations, others, celebrate conviviality with a warming dram and a hearty Scottish meal surrounded by loved ones. For us though, it’s the perfect opportunity to appreciate how interlaced whisky is in Scottish culture, history, and tradition. A chance to raise a peat smoked glass to tradition.
What’s the difference between Peat and Smoke?
Peat smoke is a type of smoke that is produced by the burning of peat (a type of soil composed of partially decayed plants and organic matter). It has a strong, distinct aroma and flavour that comes from compounds called phenols, which is why it can be so polarising.
‘Peat Smoke’ and ‘Smoky Flavour’ are terms that are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Think about it this way – ‘Peatiness’ is more of a dank earthiness that’s commonly associated with Islay malts. Imagine a beach bonfire covered in seaweed and a splash of iodine. ‘Smoke’ on the other hand has aromas associated with burning wood (without the seaweed), with a dry, ashy finish. Whereas peatiness can leave a damp and often vegetal after-note.
While you can find peated whisky across many countries, it’s typically associated with Scotch, which is why we suggest going for a transportive peated malt this Burns Night to get you into the Scottish ‘spirit’ (pun intended).
If you’re interested in exploring more about the wonderful world of whisky, we have written a whole Beginner’s Guide to Whisky, to make your venture into the complex category less daunting. Read it here.
Now, let’s get stuck into the liquid. Here are our Peated Whisky and Smoky Scotch suggestions for Burns Night. (there’s savings inside too…)*
Peated Whiskies and Smoky Scotch to Savour this Burns Night
Let’s ease you in slowly with an accessible Single Malt – Dalwhinnie 15yr Single Malt. This is a really special whisky. Smooth, with soft aromas of heather and peat, you can expect an offering of honeyed sweetness and hints of vanilla. This approachable, easy to sip dram will kick-start your love affair with peated, smoky malts. A delicious highland treat!
Woven Whisky Experience No.8 is all about Pete vs. Peat. Woven dispatched their blender, Pete, across the Isles, through fumes and folklore in search of new flavours…of Peat. The result of this exploratory expression is an effortlessly layered and smoky serve. It’s peated yes, but it goes beyond the bonfire and presents notes of delicate incense, spilled coffee, dark chocolate and lapsang souchong. Save £8 Now.
We can’t talk about peated malts without mentioning one of the most iconic peated Scotches – Lagavulin 16yr Single Malt Whisky. This is an unbelievable expression that decants rich complexity into your glass. Dry peat smoke fills the palate with a gentle sweetness, but it’s the finish that makes this whisky so memorable – figs, dates, peat, smoke, vanilla…it’s got it all.
Laphroaig 10yr Single Malt is a legendary Scotch with big notes of peat smoke. Laphroaig 10 is the foundation of all Laphroaig expressions. Made from barley malted at the distillery, which is then dried over a peat flame, it has a smoky taste, underpinned by sweetness and a hint of seaweed. There’s huge smoke and intriguing depth – try adding some water with this one though as it reveals so many underlying notes hidden behind the peat.
Nestled into the north coast of the island, Port Askaig has been the gateway to Islay for centuries. The blended Scotch range aims to embody the unique spirit of Islay and its people.
Port Askaig 8yr Old Whisky – this is a whisky filled with smoky notes of limestone, liquorice, and dark peat, and one of the youngest age-statement releases from the brand’s range of single malts. As the perfect introduction to the Isle of Islay, citrus zest and coal smoke greets the nose quickly followed by malted barley and oak. Peated liquorice sweetness joins in to taste, while rock salt and black pepper lingers on the finish. Save £7.50 Now.
Port Askaig 100 Proof Whisky however is a consistent favourite among whisky enthusiasts. This is a warming dram loaded with sweet smoky peat and fruit. Great for those looking for an ‘everyday’ Islay whisky given the huge quality and exceptional value. Rich smokiness of burning logs is joined by a faint whiff of rock pools. To taste, intense minerality is present upfront, before spice grows with stewed apple, cinnamon, and heavy charcoal smoke. Save £8 Now.
If you’re looking for something special, consider Isle of Raasay’s Distillery Special Release Whisky. This 2022 special edition single malt, showcases the distillery’s desire to push boundaries and present something different to their signature style. Expect a lightly-peated whisky, with both sweet and dried fruit on the nose. Walnuts, raisins, and dried figs push through to taste, with a lingering finish of peat, black pepper, and subtle sea salt. Save £19.50 Now.
Elements of Islay is a series of Scotches that explores the many flavour facets that come from Islay made Whisky. We have 3 expressions that may just be the perfect choice for Burns Night…
Elements of Islay Sherry Casks Whisky – Bottled at a hearty 54.5% ABV, the Sherry Cask boasts generous helpings of dried fruit, citrus zest and cocoa, alongside sweet, spicy smoke. It’s a superb value Scotch for fans of rich, potent Islay Malts. With residual aromas of a sandalwood cigar box and peated menthol with a rich and unctuous mouthfeel, no wonder it won a Gold medal at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in 2023!
At the same ABV, Elements of Islay Bourbon Cask Whisky combines rich barbecue smoke from a south coast Islay distillery with more subtle, zesty flavours from the north coast. There are sweet vanilla aromas in this one, with tropical fruit and faint coal smoke, while to taste, warm vanilla custard brioche is contrasted by roaring peat fire. Save £8 Now.
There you have it – some fantastically potent and peated whiskies to sip and savour this Burns Night. So, whether you choose an Islay single malt, an approachable sweet and smoky blend, or a rich, potent whisky with peated menthol notes, peat smoke adds a unique and delicious dimension to the festivities. Slainte!