Tomorrow is Burns Night and if you’re still struggling to find a suitable whisky, our resident Whisky Tsar Steve Crotty has the answers.
Burns Night Drams
Thank God for Burns night. To the Scottish it may be a celebration of the life and work of one of their favourite sons, but for the rest of us it’s a chance to celebrate the end of January, the most monotonous and inherently depressing month of the year. So we raise a glass of Scotland’s finest to the memory of one of Scotland’s finest and invariably end up drinking copious amounts of the stuff (whisky hangovers sit above beer ones but below the dreaded suicidal pounding that is a wine hangover on the scale of pain).
I considered various ways to inform you about some whiskies that won’t break the bank, along with their merits and flaws. In the end I stole the format used by Chris Hall for his ‘Sunshine Beers’ feature. Essentially, what follows will be some short, snappy concise guides on several entry-level whiskies to give you a better idea on what to enjoy and what to endure this Burns Night (remember, Scottish law dictates it’s legal to punch someone in the face if they offer you Teacher’s).
Aberlour 10 Years Old Single Malt Whisky
Price £22-26 (ABV 40%)
A single malt that won’t break the bank, Aberlour 10 won’t challenge you either. It has minimal flavour, and what flavour it has is muted and insignificant. This is meant to display a ‘sherried spiciness’, the overriding sensation I had was of muted caramel. It certainly won’t offend anyone, but then neither would beige carpet.
Bell’s Blended Whisky
Price £12-16 (ABV 40%)
A drink that has improved considerably since I was first revolted by it at a fairly young age; Bell’s is on the up in terms of quality. It’s still pretty grim stuff though, with the peat and the malt violently weaving all over your taste buds without leaving anything that would make you ask for another glass in a hurry. Bell’s can’t even claim to be cheap and cheerful anymore either; there are various blends and grains that can be bought for less. One to avoid.
Black Bottle Blended Whisky
Price £15-19 (ABV 40%)
Infinitely more interesting than Bell’s, this is a drink for the peatheads amongst you. While those of you who don’t like peat won’t instantly turn your noses up in revulsion, as the peat is not overpowering, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. For those of you who enjoy a smoky mouthful, there’s a lot to like. In my opinion, this is as good as an entry level Laphroaig, and better than the standard Bowmore Legend. It also costs considerably less. In fact, Black Bottle is a steal at this price.
Price £13-17 (ABV 40%)
A drink that receives a lot of bad press that it doesn’t really deserve, Famous Grouse is solid if unspectacular. The malt has a refreshing bite to it and is well-presented, whilst it has an enticing, velvety smoothness as it goes down the throat. Sadly, it doesn’t really expand beyond those themes, but for the price is a very viable option. You could do a lot worse than buy Scotland’s number one whisky.
Grant’s Family Reserve Blended Whisky
Price £12-16 (ABV 40%)
At the risk of further wrath from the Editor-in-Chief, I value this as one of the best of the cheaper blends that you can buy. It ticks all the boxes; a punch of oak, a kick of malt, and a soothing massage of gentle honey. Great value even if it isn’t lacking a degree of finesse. Don’t do what our editor did and drink far too much of it in one evening (oooh, let me guess, I’m fired) (I’m promoting you to Health and Safety Co-ordinator – Editor), instead savour the fact that for the price you’ve chosen wisely. Better still spend the extra for 50p on the Sherry Cask Reserve, which has a sweet strawberry bubble-gum flavour that is unique amongst my drinking to date. Avoid the Ale Cask reserve though, that’s one weird fish.
Whyte & Mackay Special
Price £12-16 (ABV 40%)
Another middle of the road dram that will neither enthral or disgust you; this one has a nice start and finish with a good burn coming from the fiery oak, but sadly the middle is swamped by caramel that dulls the whole experience. Due to its light complexion however it excels as a mixer, providing you want no discernible taste of booze to be present.
So there you have it. Some whiskies that won’t break the bank and certainly won’t win too many prizes for being amongst the whisky elite, but that you won’t feel guilty for drowning in your mixer of choice. Happy Burns Night everyone.