Scots Wha Hae! Happy Burns Night! With so many Americans and Canadians straight outta Scotland, this celebration of the great poet has turned into a “thing” in North America.
January 25th — also known as Robert Burns Day — is celebrated with a proper Burns supper in honor of the famous bard, who wrote many renown Scots poems.
Since 1801, Burns Night can be both a simple dinner with drams or a high falutin’ festival with traditional Scottish bagpipes, Scottish delicacies, drunk poetry and more drams of good Scotch whisky.
Want some authentic recipes? Ever had Neep soup with some tatties? Go here for great Scots recipes for Burns Night.
Saturday Night Live alum Mike Myers taught us that “if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”
So we were very appreciative when Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky sent Monsters and Critics their helpful infographic showing what you should eat and drink on this special day, along with important Rabbie Burns factoids.
However you celebrate, we found five amazing Scotch whiskies under $50 that are so well worth your investigation and time.
Our top pick is Laphroaig Select. Andrey Kalinin, a New York-based mixologist who specializes in crafting cocktails that evoke the flavors of Scotland, came up with some recipes for us to share for any celebration you may have planned.
Laphroaig Select is a NAS (no age statement) kinder, gentler Laphroaig, aged in a combination of Oloroso sherry butts, American white oak, hogsheads seasoned with Pedro Ximenez, quarter casks and first fill bourbon casks.
All that nuanced fruit and spice has lessened the phenol and iodine high notes that make Laphroaig 10 Year a smack in the noggin.
Please note, I have repeatedly copped to being a complete peat pussy and have historically preferred the cognac-esque malts and sherry cask finished scotches like Auchentochan Triple Wood, Highland Park Dark Origins, Macallan Rare Cask, Balvenie Doublewood and Aberlour A’Bundagh.
But those lovelies cost two to three times what this Laphroaig Select does.
Blessed with a creamy vanilla-ash flavor, saltiness on the mid-palate and the lingering notes of caramel, malt, and honey, the normal Laphroaig smoke and iodine edge are lessened in this toned-down version of the classic Laphroaig malt.
At $44 SRP, it’s the amazing find for under $50 to get your Burns Night party into full-kilt craic.
Here’s some cocktails you can make with it…
By NYC mixologist Andrey Kalinin
1 1/2 parts Laphroaig Select Scotch Whisky
1/2 part Drambuie Liqueur
1 part Bordeaux Red Wine
3 dashes Orange Bitters
Orange Peel (for garnish)
1. Add all ingredients together in a mixing glass and stir.
2. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass (served up).
3. Garnish with a flamed orange twist.
Ode to Whisky [Sour]
By NYC mixologist Andrey Kalinin
2 parts Laphroaig Select Scotch Whisky
3/4 part Lemon Juice
3/4 part Heather Honey Syrup
3 dashes Cardamom Bitters
1 Egg White
Fresh Cardamom (for garnish)
1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
2. Dry shake (if using egg white).
3. Add ice and shake vigorously.
4. Pour into a coupe or martini glass (served up).
5. Garnish with cardamom flakes.
Four more whiskies…
Rounding out our list of Burns Night finds for under $50 are four distinct blends and malts that have unique histories.
Nomad Outland Whisky is a mosh-pit of Scotland and Spain in a glass, and it’s amazing. Meanwhile, The Lost Distillery Company is a boutique Scotch producer cranking some highly unusual and well-received handcrafted whiskies inspired by and based on malt whiskies from long-forgotten distilleries.
Here are our picks:
González Byass Nomad Outland (SRP: $44.99)
Nomad is the first whisky in the world to be started in Scotland and finished in the González Byass cellars in Jerez de la Frontera [Spain], as Master Blender Antonio Flores has teamed up with award-winning whisky genius Richard Paterson to create this quintessential Scotch character with a soul that is truly Jerezano.
This original 5 and 8 year old blend is left to mature in Sherry butts in Scotland for three years, before being transferred to Jerez to be aged in the San Fernando cellars of González Byass for a minimum of 12 months.
Nomad is just that, a traveler, born in the Highlands of Scotland and exported to be aged in barrels that had previously held Fino, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez Sherries. Nomad Outland Whisky’s ageing process turns this Speyside malt into a new Andalucian potion that is round and mellow but not dull.
Flores artfully ages this Scottish wanderer with the sweetness of the wood imparting hints of oranges, marzipan, caramelized apple and stone fruits with hints of banana, almond, peaches, a wee bit of liquorice and spice for a fabulous under $50 find.
The Lost Distillery Company: Benachie, Lossit & Towiemore (All have an SRP of $43/bottle)
The Lost Distillery Company is truly a whisky with a backstory like none other. Lost Distillery employs the skills of renowned archivist and Scotch whisky historian, Professor Michael Moss of the University of Glasgow, to recreate some pure magic.
The foundation of each rediscovered whisky utilizes archives, historical records and the analysis of water source, peat, still and wood.
The Lost Distillery Company blends 5 to 10 single malt whiskies from different distilleries throughout Scotland. Keeping true to historical distilling, there is no chill filter as 10 components are analyzed — era, locality, water, barley, yeast, peat, mash tun, wash back, still and wood.
Founded in 1817 by Malcolm MacNeil, the Lossit Distillery was the largest whisky producer on Islay (where Laphroaig hails from) but closed in 1867. According to their historical notes it “was part of the transformation of Islay’s reputation from an outpost of smugglers to a leading force in the whisky industry.”
True to Islay regional scotch, you get some smoke, meted with fruit notes, and citrus, ginger, and oak. This is medium-bodied and slightly spicy with flavors of smoke, malt, vanilla, and ginger.
Founded by William Smith in 1822, the Benachie Distillery was erected near the town of Insch, in farmland areas with “copious amounts of peat” according to the distiller. The remote location ultimately led to their closure in 1913 due to isolation.
This has a top-palate of stone fruit and raisins, and mid-palate flavors of licorice, candied orange and marzipan. The overall finish has a lingering bit of spice.
A Speyside resurrection. Founded in 1898 by whisky entrepreneur Peter Dawson, the Towiemore Distillery was built outside of Dufftown in Speyside as the whisky industry began to lose its love affair with blended scotch. Towiemore’s hallmarks were its “light and fruity taste” according to the distiller. Tainted water supplies ultimately led to its closure in 1931.
This scotch is a rounder, sweeter experience, with spice and sherry notes underscored with sweet almond, vanilla, and hints of pepper, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg with added notes of dark chocolate, orange and walnut. These flavors make this a great selection for the peat pussies, aka me.