Whisky or wine with haggis this Burns Night?

What will you choose to have with your Burns supper? Whisky or wine?

What will you choose to have with your Burns supper? Whisky or wine? - Credit: Flagship Wines

Burns Night – the annual tribute to the life, works and spirit of the Scottish poet Robert Burns - is celebrated on his birthday, January 25.

Burns suppers conform, more or less, to the eating of a traditional Scottish meal accompanied by Scotch whisky, and the recitation of poems by Robert Burns to celebrate his life and the haggis. 

Whisky is the usual choice at Burns' suppers, either malts or blends. It is traditional to pour a dram over the haggis but traditionalists may recoil from this preferring to enjoy the two separately!

The best choice of whisky to accompany the haggis is that based on your personal preference whether it’s a peaty Islay whisky or a smooth lowland or aromatic Arran.

The good news for Whisky Connoisseurs is that the latest release from The Waxhouse Whisky Co - release No 3 is now available in time for Burns Night. It is a 10-year-old single malt Scotch whisky, distilled at Speyside’s Linkwood distillery and matured in a red wine cask.

It’s a rich, buttery whisky with strong soft red fruit notes and hints of citrus peel. Waxhouse Whisky Company was formed in 2018 by three friends and whisky enthusiasts who run the St Albans Whisky Club. 

If, like me, you prefer wine to whisky, then robust red wines are a great match for this dish with concentrated robust mouth-filling flavours such as wines made from Shiraz in Australia or Syrah from the Rhone Valley and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.

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Some delicious examples are made by Rebecca Willson, the winemaker at Bremerton wines in Langhorne Creek, South Australia. Her Scottish family heritage is borne out by the names of the wines such as the Selkirk Shiraz which is an excellent Shiraz that has a rich spicy flavour with a hint of pepper and a long, lingering finish that matches well with haggis.  

This grape in the Rhone Valley, known as the Syrah here, has a similar lovely complex ripe berry fruit and peppery spice notes with more structure from slightly more obvious tannins.

Look out for wines such as Cotes du Rhone Villages wines that are aromatic and full of flavours of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries on the palate. This is also true for wines such as the Esk Valley Syrah from Hawkes Bay with lingering notes of spicy stewed plums and underlying complexities of dark chocolate, savoury mushrooms and spicy prunes. 

The rich ripe peppery fruit notes of the Malbec grape such as those made by Los Haroldos, MAAL and Vista Sierra are also great with the Burns Night supper. 

White wines aren’t as easily successfully matched with haggis, neeps and tatties, but would match up to a starter of the traditional cock-a-leekie soup. Choose a white with lovely aromatic notes such the New Zealand Pinot Gris based wines made by Escarpment in Martinborough, Esk Valley in Hawkes Bay amongst others with the lovely broad fruit flavours of pears and white pepper.

Other tasty selections would be a southern French Viognier such as that from Domaine de Vedilhan or the Secreto Viognier made by Viu Manent in Chile. They are crisp white wines with the characteristic ripe apricot and peach fruit notes matched with good acidity and a hint of spice and white pepper. 

Why not try this as a delicious lockdown meal on January 25...