Just a few weeks ago I was seeing in the New Year with friends holding hands, cross-armed and trying to join in with the singing of Auld Lang Syne! Thankfully, the fireworks in the background disguised the mumbo-jumbo emanating from my mouth. I think I got away with it – for another year at least.
Dubbed the song “everyone knows, but nobody knows the words to”, Auld Lang Syne was of course written by Robert Burns, the Scottish poet’s whose works and life are celebrated the world over with Burns Night suppers on the 25th of January. In planning my first ever supper this year, I was disturbed to hear, that after the haggis, neaps, tatties and toasts, Auld Lang Syne is sung. No, I can’t really fake it again, can I?
I quickly formulate a “cunning plan” in my mind: Firstly, I will sing it using the more comprehensible words from the English translation rather than the original version. Secondly, I will have a wee nip of a special Scotch or two to wet my whistle.
So which dram of whisky? Is it a myth that a smoky, peaty whisky works best? Not according to the whisky critics out there, but it does need to go with the haggis itself, the meaty gravy, earthy buttery turnips and sweet, flowery swede.
Compass Box’s Peat Monster combines potent peat with subtle spice and fruit. The sweet maltiness and hints of fruit offset the gaminess of the haggis and 10 to 16 year old smoky and peaty single malts (from the island of Islay, the Isle of Mull and Speyside) add another dimension to the overall supper. Afterwards, relax in your favourite pairs of slippers, head for an armchair in front of roaring, mesmerising log fire.
Alternatively, if peat does not get on with you, a big sherried whisky, such as those from Glendronach, will work wonders. Maturation in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks give fruit-laden flavours, sweet spice and a nuttiness that provides a great contrast to the meaty and peppery character of the dish.
Splash-out on the Glendronach ‘Parliament’, a 21 year old that has the features above in profusion with further notes of plum pudding and spiced oatmeal biscuits. If, like me, the thought of stewed summer fruits, all-spice and toasted walnut bread send you into an olfactory frenzy, try the 18 year old Glendronach ‘Alardice’. If you would rather these flavours were dialled down a notch, having spent just 12 years in these sherry butts, embrace the Glendronach ‘Original’.
However, if you like the taste of haggis and prefer it enhanced by whisky rather than overpowered by it then go for the easy-to-drink, elegant and very lightly peated James Eadie, with its fascinating human back-story. James Eadie established his signature blend of whisky in 1854, and although renowned at the time, the brand didn’t survive far into the 20th century. Luckily for us, Eadie’s great-great grandson Rupert Patrick has resurrected the brand using the meticulous records of whisky purchases made by James himself. Only whiskies that James Eadie purchased during his lifetime make it into the blend, which contains whiskies from every whisky making region in Scotland.
Having tasted samples of all the above whiskies and my confidence growing, I am heading off for some choir practice now. Wish me luck.