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Wi’ tippenny, we fear nae evil;
Wi’ usquabae, we’ll face the devil!
– Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns, 1790.
Isle of Arran Distillers are Patrons of the ‘Robert Burns World Federation’ and as a result, bottle the only official whisky to carry his name. There are both blend and single malt expressions on the market but on this occasion I’ll be reviewing the latter. The Burns malt is produced at Arran Distillery in Lochranza, matured in American Oak Casks and bottled at 43% alcohol by volume, but before we get to the whisky, let us look first at the great man himself…
Burns was born into a farming family in Alloway in 1759. An avid reader from a young age, the works of Alexander Pope, Henry Mackenzie and Laurence Sternie inspired him to try his hand at Poetry whenever his duties allowed. When his Father passed away in 1784, Robert was left to look after the farm, something which he had shown little interest in up to that point. It was around this time that Burns first met and seemingly fell in love with, Jean Armour. When Jean’s father strongly objected to a union between the young lovers however, Robert was left devastated and sought comfort in the arms of another woman by the name of Mary Campbell. The couple began to make plans to emigrate to Jamaica and Robert arranged to publish some of his poetry as a means of raising funds for the journey. Gaining considerable critical acclaim, Burns was inspired to push his talents further and when Mary unexpectedly passed away due to illness, he cancelled his trip to Jamaica and moved instead to Edinburgh, where he could freely mingle with the great and good of literary society.
Financial security continued to elude him however and in 1788, Burns returned to Dumfriesshire where he would soon rekindle his affair with Jean Armour. His fame as a poet found Jean’s father in rather more receptive mood when it came to their coupling and the two were married later the same year. After once more turning his hand, somewhat unsuccessfully, to farming, Burns sought a more steady income in the employ of the government. Working as an exciseman would no doubt have put him in conflict with the illicit distillers of the day.
Burns’ life was one of passionate affairs, excessive drinking, poetry and song. He died in 1796, aged 37, from Rheumatic Fever but his memory, and his work, lives on. He is seen as Scotland’s National Poet and his birthday on the 25th of January is marked all over the world with readings of poetry, suppers of Haggis and of course, a wee dram or two…
Smell: The nose is Malty and a little Musty with Vanilla, Cream, Shortbread, Apple and Orange.
Taste: Quite a lot of Spice on the palate followed by Vanilla, Honey, Caramel and Orange Cream
Thoughts: The Robert Burns single malt is usually available for around £25 – £30. It’s an interesting enough wee dram for that price. I felt it came across a bit hot at first but mellowed over time. With the addition of water, a nice malty character came through. It’s reasonably priced but it’s worth noting that the Arran 10-year-old is usually around £35 and I’d much rather spend the extra few pounds on that. Still, if you’re looking for another spin on the Arran single malt, Robert Burns is certainly worth a wee look.
If the whisky featured in this review has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission should you make a purchase after following a link from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.